Dáil Éireann - Volume 401 - 11 July, 1990

Broadcasting Bill, 1990: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage.

An Ceann Comhairle: We have dealt with amendment No. 8 which was voted on and defeated. Consequently amendments Nos. 9, 28, 30 and 50 fall.

Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 not moved.

An Ceann Comhairle: Amendment No. 33 is an alternative to amendment No. 11 so both amendments may be discussed together.

Mr. McCartan: I have no objection to those amendments being taken together for discussion purposes. I understand Deputy O'Sullivan wants to raise a point of order in respect of No. 33.

Mr. T. O'Sullivan: I would ask your guidance, a Cheann Comhairle, on the interpretation of Standing Order No. 105. The Minister's amendment is in breach of that Standing Order.

An Ceann Comhairle: There is no obligation on the Chair to interpret Standing Orders in the House. If the Deputy so wishes, he can communicate with my office, but I have no intention of dealing with the matter here. We are dealing now with the Broadcasting Bill and we will proceed with the debate on amendment No. 11.

Mr. McCartan: I move amendment No. 11:

In page 4, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

“2. — (1) Upon the passing of this [1362] Act, and subject to the provisions of subsection (2), television broadcasters shall ensure that no less than 25 per cent of the home produced programmes shall be commissioned from Irish based independent programme makers.

(2) The requirements of this section shall apply to the Authority within three years of the enactment of this Act, and to any other television station established under the terms of the Radio and Television Act, 1988 on the commencement of broadcasting.

(3) For the purposes of this section an independent programme maker shall be an individual or company operating outside of and financially independent of the contracting broadcaster.”.

This amendment is a reasoned attempt to address the central issue the Minister is attempting to grapple with in a rather ham-fisted and hurried way. He is attempting to redirect resources within the industry generally and is assisting the independent sector to develop into a vibrant and expanding area and contribute to the whole broadcasting industry.

The proposal in my name arises directly from the representations I received from the group who, for the purposes of this debate, call themselves Campaign 25, which in essence is the campaign slogan of the Irish film makers association, known as Film Makers Ireland. I understand they have had an opportunity to make their representations known to the Minister and he has met with them. I acknowledge that in amendment No. 33 the Minister is responding to those representations but, [1363] nonetheless, I have a number of points to make on the issue.

Amendment No. 11 proposes in subsection (1) that upon the passing of the Act, television broadcasters — RTE and TV3 or any other television station that might be established within the State — shall ensure that not less than 25 per cent of home-produced programmes shall be commissioned from Irish-based independent programme makers. In essence, RTE and any other broadcaster would be required under the law to commission from Irish-based independent companies 25 per cent of all the home-produced programmes that are broadcast.

Recognising the significance and impact this proposal would have on the resources of the existing broadcaster, the amendment suggests that in regard to RTE, the requirements would be phased in over a three-year period and in regard to TV3 or, indeed, any other station, they would apply as and from the time that station is established. Finally, in subsection (3) of the amendment I propose a definition of an independent programme maker for the purposes of the section. In particular, I am attempting to address what I believe will emerge from the establishment of TV3. The existing independent film makers who are members of Film Makers Ireland do not hold out great hope for their future even though the Minister has suggested that once TV3 has been set up the market will be opened up to them and they will have the same opportunities as, for example, they might have had in England with the advent of Channel 4.

In the context of subsection (3), Windmill Lane, who are the substantial proprietors of Century Radio and, in time, TV3, have purchased the television studios in Bray, formerly Ardmore Studios which were owned by MTM. It is expected that when TV3 is up and running, they will fulfil their obligations under this Act when passed or, indeed, under the directive when it becomes law. They will commission the majority if not all their “home-produced” material from [1364] their subsidiary company based at Ardmore, and that is the reason they purchased those studios. I am making the point on behalf of those independent operators that TV3 would be obliged, as is the case with the national broadcaster, to go into the independent market and not simply work through subsidiary operations with a view to securing their homebased material. That is the suggestion in subsection (3).

This amendment involves an invasion of the resources of RTE, the national broadcaster. It will result in a substantial cutback in the resources and finances of the authority, but we all have to resign ourselves at this stage to the fact that the Minister intends to do that one way or another, and I do not agree with the way he is doing so. For that reason I am suggesting in this amendment what I believe to be reasoned and sensible formula to address the issue of the shifting of resources from the monopoly to the independent sector. That could be achieved by strengthening the position of one sector of the market, namely, the independent film makers, advertisers and programme makers and helping them to expand. The resources that would be lost to RTE could then be taken up in the home market. This amendment is proposed in response to people who are active and independent in this area, in an effort to show the Minister that there is another way. It will ensure that any moneys released from the purse of RTE will be kept within the indigenous homebased industry.

As we all know, the Minister's proposals to cap advertising and release resources at a time when there is no other competitor in the field here will inevitably lead to those resources going to competitors based abroad who are broadcasting into Ireland. It has been identified that UTV will be the main beneficiary. As I have said, Sky television have bought the equipment to beam their advertising network in here, and BBC is received in two out of every three homes in the country at present.

It is inevitable that until there is a home-based competitor the vast majority [1365] of the resources that will be released from RTE will slip out in commissions to the broadcasters from abroad and will enhance their potential to the detriment of the home-based industry. My point is that this proposition suggests another formula to deal with RTE's monopoly while at the same time keeping the resources at home. It goes a step further in that it states that the advent of TV3 as another player is not sufficient to protect the interests of the home-based independent industry. Subsection (3) is designed to ensure that once TV3 is in place, everybody gets a fair break and that the pitch — to develop the expression — is level for RTE as well as for TV3. The real issue is how TV3 will operate when they are up and running, because the evidence suggests that they intend to operate through subsidiary companies, worked into a network of the parent company to provide all the different requirements that the Minister or the EC Directives will expect in terms of home produced programmes. However, there is no doubt that if RTE were to expand through the development of subsidiary companies, and set up subsidiary companies either as a joint enterprise or as a wholly controlled and owned enterprise to deal with “the independent home produced programmes” as will be required under the EC Directives in 1991, I have no doubt that the Minister would say: “Sorry, foul, that is not what I mean by material produced by independent broadcasters, producing programmes outside the monopoly and, therefore, is not acceptable”. There is nothing in the Bill that indicates that the Minister proposes that the same regime will apply to the independent broadcasters when TV3 is up and running.

The independent film making sector acknowledged that amendment No. 33 in the Minister's name is a gesture and a step in the right direction as far as they are concerned. The amendment recognises that an independent sector exist who have a very important role to play and the Minister recognises what they have to do and the role they can play in [1366] the future of broadcasting. However, I am concerned that the amendment perhaps does not go far enough and will not, of necessity, achieve everything that we should be seeking to achieve, the re-distribution of resources in a constructive way and, most importantly, ensuring that whatever is taken out for re-distribution is used to develop and secure a vibrant home-based industry.

The Minister has borrowed heavily from the EC Directive, which was adopted by the Council on 3 October 1989 and published in the Official Journal of the European Communities No. L 298/23 of the 17 October 1989. If I may briefly quote from the Instrument, Article 5 states:

Member States shall ensure, where practicable and by appropriate means, that broadcasters reserve at least 10% of their transmission time, excluding the time appointed to news, sports events, games, advertising and teletext services, or alternatively, at the discretion of the Member State, at least 10% of their programming budget, for European works created by producers who are independent of broadcasters.

In the context of the Directive, it would appear that the suggestion that 25 per cent be set aside is contrary to the Directive, but that is not so and we argue for 25 per cent home produced programming so that if RTE or, indeed, any broadcaster simply produced one hour per day of home produced programming, the independents are saying that they should be entitled to a 25 per cent slot of that one hour. Their argument is that they are looking for 25 per cent of the schedule that is given over to the home-produced sector. They are also saying that it should be targeted at Irish-based companies or those based and working within the country. In my view, the Directive asks that the member states would target their percentage work from works that originate within the Community, but there is nothing to prohibit or exclude a further refinement of that in our national legislation. There is nothing prohibiting the Minister from saying that in fulfilling our [1367] obligations under Article 5 we can require that we source the majority of the home-produced programme element in Ireland. As I have said, that is the existing position in Britain and they have a good scheme based on the 25 per cent principle in operation for some years. I want to stress that it was not just the establishment of Channel 4 that heralded the healthy and vibrant independent film making industry in that country. However, it was the arrival of Channel 4 among others, coupled with the 25 per cent rule on home-produced programmes that has worked. Both must be in place to work together.

Finally, when the Campaign 25 made their case they were as implacably opposed to capping on advertising as I in The Workers' Party or any Member in the Opposition is opposed to capping. They have made a very fine, and I believe unanswerable argument that the interests of independent broadcasters are intrinsically linked to the interests of the national broadcaster, in our case, that is RTE. In other words, when you have a healthy and expanding national broadcasting authority, you will have a healthy and expanding independent sector, be it film or radio. They consider that the EC Directive can only work in an environment which is centred around a healthy expanding and developing national broadcasting authority. If the national authority are not expanding, they are not in a position to commission works as they will not have the resources, inclination or design to move on.

In arguing for this amendment in my name, I believe that it will only be effective where we do not have capping on advertising. I believe the idea presented in my amendment is a sensible and constructive way in which to move resources within the industry to ensure the future of a vibrant, independent sector, leading to further employment and engendering all classes of our culture, which have to be served. The alternative leads to a negativing downward spiral, drawing the blood from RTE without guaranteeing a mechanism whereby the diverted [1368] resources are maintained at home to assist in creating further jobs.

For that reason, I ask the Minister to reconsider my amendment and accept that it should be taken on board on preference to his own. I wish to reserve further comments until I hear the Minister's response.

Mr. J. Mitchell: It is not my intention to delay the House. I rise to support this amendment and I hope the Minister has listened to the arguments put forward by the Deputy.

Mr. T. O'Sullivan: Does the Minister intend to move his amendment at this juncture?

An Ceann Comhairle: He cannot. One amendment has been moved and we are discussing both together.

Mr. T. O'Sullivan: While I support the broad outline of The Workers' Party amendment in the name of Deputy McCartan there are one or two aspects of it about which I am concerned. Deputy McCartan said that the marketplace will take up those services displaced by this legislation. However, I do not have the same faith in the marketplace as Deputy McCartan. He referred to the threat posed by the broadcasting services from outside the State, namely Sky, BBC, ITV, UTV and the Satellite channels. He said that once TV3 are in operation everyone will get an even break. I do not think that will happen. If our experience from the third radio channel is anything to go by we could be faced with a rather chaotic situation and have to come back here in two years' time and try to suppress the second RTE television channel.

I have already expressed reservations about the Minister's amendment. I have doubts about the legality of this amendment and whether it is proper for it to be on the agenda. Standing Order 105 states that no charge shall be place on the public purse, the Exchequer, or a person. If this amendment is accepted it will place a charge on the public purse. If there are job losses it automatically follows that [1369] there will be a drain on the Exchequer by way of social welfare payments, etc. It will also be necessary to pay redundancy to people who will be displaced as a result of this legislation. I will be supporting The Workers' Party amendment but I cannot see any reason to support the Minister's amendment.

The Minister referred to amendment No. 33 when speaking on an earlier amendment and said that RTE will remain a first-class station. I do not think this will be possible. He is proposing to spancel RTE in such a manner that it will be extremely difficult for them to survive. Following 1 October, the date set by the Minister for the coming into force of the legislation, further pressure will be put on RTE. The Minister stated that there is nothing in the Bill which will damage RTE. All I can say in response to that is that he must not be listening to what is being said outside. Even people who up to recent times had no interest in broadcasting can now see this legislation for what it really is and its likely effect on RTE. For that reason I have no choice but to oppose the Minister's amendment.

If amendment No. 33 was taken on its own and not in conjunction with the capping which the Minister has also proposed I could live with it. As Deputy McCartan said, under the EC Directive it will be mandatory on us from October 1991 to carry a certain amount of material originating outside the State. Taken together, the proposal to cap RTE's revenue from advertising and the need for the Authority to ensure that the proportion of outside material broadcast by them shall not be less than that broadcast by them in 1989, will tie not just one but both of RTE's hands and make it extremely difficult for them to survive in that climate.

I question whether it is in order to have this proposal on the agenda. I sincerely hope that if needs be the matter will be resolved in the courts. Unlike other people I have no inhibitions about going to court. The treatment we have been meted out by the Government during the passage of this Bill through the House means we may be left with no choice but [1370] to go to court. This Bill is the product of a one-party House which debated the Bill on 29 June. We were in a very dangerous situation that day in that the people of Ireland were being represented by one party with token opposition from an Independent Deputy. The Progressive Democrats and the Fianna Fáil Party acted as one unit for the purposes of the debate on this Bill. This is equivalent to a Comhairle Dáil Ceanntair meeting of the Fianna Fáil Party passing the Committee Stage of this Bill. The State was ruled by one party on the afternoon of Friday, 29 June. This should be put on the record because we are going quite close to the brink. Democracy is under threat and this can be seen by the presence of this Bill on the agenda. This issue has to be clarified in the courts because there is an unwillingness on the part of this House to resolve the problem.

Every effort has been made to divert attention away from what the Minister is trying to do. This Bill is not the end, it is just the beginning. As Deputy Mitchell said, further developments will take place in the telecommunications area and not in the MMDS system. I think it is fair to say that there will be a revolution in telecommunications and the MMDS system over the next couple of years. For that reason it is absolutely essential for us to ensure that the Bill we pass in this House is correct. Earlier today, the Minister refused to accept Deputy Mitchell's amendment which proposed the setting up a commission to investigate broadcasting in this country. It behoves us to enact legislation which will ensure that our communications system will be free from Government interference. However, we will not be able to do this in this Bill.

The Minister's first attack on RTE was on 29 May when he said he would take a proportion of their licence fee. His second attack was on Radio 2FM, the third was the capping of revenue and the fourth was the proposal in amendment No. 33, which is by far the most devious proposal to date. The Minister has surpassed himself on this occasion by putting down this amendment. It has to be said [1371] that this is a sinister proposal. I have some reservations about Deputy McCartan's amendment but I can go along with it. I cannot accept the Minister's amendment which I regard as the fourth attack by him on RTE. I will be opposing his amendment.

Minister for Communications (Mr. Burke): On Committee Stage a number of Deputies expressed concern about the independent audio-visual production sector and the desirability of fostering that sector. I indicated at the time that a provision already existed in relation to this sector in the Radio and Television Act, 1988, in regard to the future independent television company and that in any event the EC Directive on Broadcasting Activities would be operative in relation to both the independent television company and RTE from October 1991. I stated, therefore, that while I was not unamenable to the idea of having a provision in the Bill dealing with this sector so far as RTE are concerned it did not seem necessary.

Since the Committee Stage debate I received representations from representatives of the independent production sector and discussions were held with them. While they acknowledged and welcomed the provision that had been made in the 1988 Act so far as the third channel was concerned and were aware of the relevant provision of the EC Directive, they were particularly concerned about the hiatus that would exist between now and the coming into effect of the EC Directive in October 12 months. The absence of any provision in the Broadcasting Authority Acts governing RTE — even equivalent to that applying to the third channel in the 1988 Act — was of particular concern to them, especially in the light of intimations from RTE that they may more or less cease to use the independent production sector.

Given my stated policy of promoting the audio-visual production sector in this country and the general consensus that seems to prevail in this House that the [1372] development of the independent production sector should be encouraged, I have decided to promote amendment No. 33.

The effect of the amendment will be to place RTE in the same situation as the proposed independent channel by requiring it to carry a “reasonable proportion” of programme material produced by the independent production sector. I have consciously avoided putting a percentage figure on the amount of such material to be carried because it is an area where some flexibility is needed. I have, however, set a minimum threshold to the effect that the amount should, as far as practicable, not be less than that carried by RTE in 1989. This is to ensure that there is at least no regression in RTE's commitment to the sector in the period up to the coming into force of the Directive in October 1991.

In particular the suggestion that we should go for a 25 per cent quota to be achieved over, say, a three-year period, as the independent production sector itself had been advocating and as referred to in The Workers' Party amendment on this issue, and supported by the Labour Party, might be too inflexible and too ambitious at this stage. A 25 per cent quota is currently being proposed in UK broadcasting legislation but, as I mentioned on Committee Stage, they have a much more developed independent production sector than we have and they have had the benefit of almost ten years of operation of Channel 4 which has been a major catalyst for the development of the independent sector there.

Our objective at this time should be to at least attain the EC Directive leval of either 10 per cent of transmission time or programme budgets — bearing in mind that the independent sector's own estimate of Irish produced independent output from RTE is currently only around 2 per cent or 3 per cent of total output. It is essentially a question of walking before we run. I do not want to impose on RTE things which they cannot live with. I appreciate that Deputy McCartan's amendment was put down in good faith and is supported by Deputy [1373] O'Sullivan despite the fact that my amendment is less demanding.

I should also mention — and this is also relevant to The Workers' Party amendment on this issue — that in a provision like this we cannot discriminate in favour of Irish independent productions as against independent productions from other EC member states or we would be running contrary to our EC obligations. One will find the same in the UK proposed legislation where the relevant provision is basically silent on the question of origin of their proposed 25 per cent quota of independent productions.

Deputy McCartan, if I am to judge by his previous interventions, makes great play of the fact that he has allowed for a three-year period for RTE to achieve a 25 per cent quota of independent production. The implication of this position seems to be that he is being much more reasonable to RTE in terms of the demands he is putting on them than I am. Likewise, the Labour Party seem to be under the impression that I am imposing a very serious imposition on RTE.

Let us look a little more closely at this contention. If RTE are to achieve a 25 per cent quota over the next three years as proposed by Deputy McCartan and supported by Deputy O'Sullivan, this implies that the volume of independent transmissions from RTE should rise from its current level of around 3 per cent to 8 per cent next year, 16 per cent in 1992 and 24 to 25 per cent in 1993. The proposal seeks to achieve in three years what is proposed for UK broadcasters after 20 or more years, including ten years of Channel 4 whose general remit is very much towards the independent production sector.

At this point all I am asking of RTE is that they should at least maintain 1989 levels of independent production for the next year with a view to getting to a situation where they can graduate to the EC Directive levels when it becomes operative in October 1991.

In other words, I have sought a reasonable compromise between the demands of the independent production sector — whose desire for a 25 per cent quota I [1374] fully appreciate — and what I believe is a reasonable and practical demand to place on RTE.

In this regard I assure Deputies that there have been consultations with representatives of the independent production sector in the drafting of my amendment and, without seeking to put words in their mouths, I believe they are very appreciative of the amendment I am promoting. While of course they would have preferred that I would have gone for the 25 per cent quota, they have a full understanding of the considerations I have to bear in mind relating to the interests and capability of RTE as regards laying down independent production targets to be achieved.

In mentioning independent production targets it is interesting to note the figures. I have accepted the point made by the independent production sector — and I have put down the amendment — but when one looks at the hours and percentages of independent production which have been commissioned by RTE the figure is, to say the least, very disappointing. If you estimate the historical levels of output for the independent programme sector, you can see that in the year 1982-83 the total output of hours by RTE amounted to 5,100. Of that, 1,500 hours were devoted to home production, 33 per cent. As a percentage of the total output it was 1.37 per cent and as a percentage of domestic output it was 4.6 per cent. In 1987-88 the total output of hours amounted to 7,000 and, of that 3,500 hours were devoted to home production. We had reached 50 per cent. However, during that time the independent production hours amounted to only 180 out of 7,000; it was only 2.57 per cent of total output and it was 5.14 per cent of domestic output. In 1988-89 the total output increased to 7,500 hours. If nothing else, this graph of hours illustrates just how wrong the critics are when they accuse the Government of being biased against RTE. In 1982-83 the total output of hours was 5,100; in 1988-89 there were 7,500 hours of output and home production during the period 1988-89——

[1375] Mr. J. Mitchell: I suppose the Minister was responsible for that growth.

Mr. Burke: Home production in that time amounted to 3,750 hours — it amounted to 50 per cent of total output. In regard to independent production, out of 7,500 hours there were 150 hours of independent production representing 2 per cent of total output and 4 per cent of domestic output. In 1989-90, the figure I suggest that RTE should still support for independent production should not be less than 1989 — “as far as practicable” is the phrase I used in amendment No. 33. In 1989-90 they produced 7,500 hours and out of that 3,750 hours were devoted to home production; the figure is still 50 per cent for home production. Independent production hours increased during this time to 180 hours which still represents a derisory 2.57 per cent of total production. As a percentage of domestic output it represents only 5.14 per cent.

As I said, I understand Deputy McCartan's amendment and I appreciate his commitment to the independent sector but if we accepted it you are talking about an imposition on RTE which they could not achieve and which would have major job implications, far greater than anything I am being criticised for and threatened with by commentators. This amendment is supported by the Labour Party but I must reject it and I will, when we reach it, move amendment No. 33. I appreciate too, that Deputy McCartan has gone towards the 25 per cent on the basis of the strong case being made by the independent sector and his study of the British experience. However, I remind him that the British experience has 20 years of independent production behind it and ten years of Channel 4. It is far more realistic to talk about 25 per cent there than in the context of our situation.

What I am imposing on RTE by this amendment is similar to what has been done in the 1988 Radio and Television Act, section 18 (4) of which provides that: “For the purpose of ensuring compliance with subsection (3) the Commission shall [1376] ensure that a reasonable proportion of the programme service — (a) is produced in the State or in another member state of the European Communities, and (b) is devoted to original programme material produced therein by persons other than the contractor, his subsidiary, his parent or existing broadcasting organisations”.

Mr. M. Higgins: I want to clarify one or two points on the question of the Labour Party's attitude towards amendment No. 11 and the Minister's amendment No. 33. We support amendment No. 11 and reject amendment No. 33 because amendment No. 11 which makes the case for the independents is put forward by Deputy McCartan in the context of there being no capping. The Minister is putting forward amendment No. 33 with an unequivocal approach towards capping. He is insisting on capping taking place. There is no point in us in this House being confused or in any way misled into believing that these two amendments are similar. They are far from being so. What they have in common, in substance, is an attempt to respond to the case made as a lobbying group by the independent film makers and producers. When Campaign 25 made their case, in their literature they stressed that they were against limiting or capping RTE's advertising. The Minister states he has had meetings with them. I would be very interested to hear whether they had withdrawn that condition. I suspect from my contacts with them that they began by saying they were against what they saw as the damaging of RTE as a signficant customer, a significant purchaser of their products. They also, I suspect believe to this minute that capping of advertising of RTE is wrong. I believe also they are worried about the straight gift of RTE's advertising revenue to stations outside the State altogether.

So far today in a long debate the only comment we have had about what is to happen in the interim before TV3 goes on the air is the Minister saying rather weakly that, of course, there is the slack in the print media, the idea being that the revenue which is distorted away from [1377] RTE can go to the papers. I will be very interested to see how independent film makers will sell films to newspapers, but that is the curious illogicality of the way this whole thing has been thrown together. There will be a flight of TV advertising in the short term because TV3 is not there, and the assumption is that it can be got back. We can go into all this again when we come to the next bunch of amendments which deal with the question of levying and so forth.

The Minister said he is looking forward to debating the Labour Party's compromise proposal of last week. It was an attempt to raise a specified sum of money for IRTC from a levy on gross advertising revenue. It would not have interfered with the freedom of earning capacity in RTE. I am only making passing reference, as the Minister did, to his future amendments and when we come to that we will go into it in some detail and we will be pointing out that one of the crucial differences between our approach and his is that ours is legal and constitutional and his is not. Therefore, we are supporting amendment No. 11 in Deputy McCartan's name because, apart altogether from the detail of its phasing and so forth, it is offered before we have decided on capping. We cannot support the Minister's amendment No. 33 because the Minister has said capping is going ahead irrespective. Let us think about his amendment No. 33, capping being in place. He is saying RTE with significantly less income and revenue must sustain their commitments all over the place at their 1988-89 level. Translated into real terms he is really saying that they are to keep their contracts with the independents alive at the 1988-89 level. Of course, what is unsaid is that the jobs that will have to go will be RTE staff jobs. Therefore, amendment No. 33 within the concept of capping is a recipe for job destruction within RTE. On the other hand, amendment No. 11 is an open amendment which provides that, capping not being in place, it would be a good thing to make a provision for the independents. That is the logic behind the [1378] Labour Party's support for amendment No. 11.

Mr. Burke: Where is that in it? Where is that part about capping not being in place?

Mr. M. Higgins: We and Deputy McCartan will be voting against capping. I do not believe the Minister has made any converts here for capping but maybe when we come to vote on it, it will be all very clear. If the Minister was to think again about his capping proposal we could reconsider his amendment No. 33. If between now and the vote on amendment No. 33 the Minister suggests he is considering alternatives to capping we will be glad to reconsider our vote on that amendment. The Minister has indicated that capping is what it is going to be. “What you see is what you have” is the motto. Therefore, I am afraid his amendment must be construed for what it is. He is saying simply that they can earn less but they must keep these levels of commitments. There are implications there. Let us not try to fool anybody. At stake here are the basic jobs within RTE as a station.

Amendment No. 11 is about the relationship of the independents to the broadcasting service, that is of RTE to the other TV stations. That is the problem that arises. I do not intend to respond to these curious statistics in relation to home production and otherwise, but it is not quite as simple as the Minister says. Between 1982 and 1989 we had an increase in total output hours. We might be looking forward to a very different situation. At the moment I am indicating that there is a logic which enables us to support amendment No. 11 and reject amendment No. 33. Amendment No. 11 deals with a situation in which capping is rejected. Amendment No. 33 assumes capping is in place.

Once again I appeal to the Minister in a constructive spirit. He has indicated hostility already to our amendment No. 14 which we will discuss when we come to it, but at this stage let me say that, amendment No. 14 has the advantage of [1379] generating revenue to assist public service broadcasting in the independent sector without interfering with the freedom of action to generate income, without putting a ceiling on the earning capacity of RTE. It is based on fair competition within the marketplace far more than the Minister's amendment which is based on a fundamental distortion of the marketplace.

Mr. Garland: I oppose the Minister's amendment No. 33 because it is vague to the point of waffle. It refers to “a reasonable proportion of the programme material” — reasonable to whom? This is purely aspirational. This legislation is far too detailed and this type of amendment has no place in the Bill. I ask the Minister to give serious consideration to withdrawing it.

Neither can I support Deputy McCartan's amendment. We on this side of the House should have stuck to our guns on Committee Stage of the Bill. The early sections in this Bill are incapable of amendment and they should simply be opposed. There is no use in tinkering around with something which is so inherently flawed as this Bill. We are playing into the Minister's hands by putting down these amendments which are quite insignificant and unimportant. For that reason I appeal to Deputy McCartan to withdraw his amendment and simply oppose this section in its entirety.

Mr. McCartan: I would like to thank the Deputies who have contributed in support of the amendment I have put forward. Also I acknowledge that the Minister has for the first time in the debate entered into the spirit of what we have been discussing, I suppose in promotion of his own amendment in the same context. It was helpful to hear some of the facts and figures which the Minister used to construct his arguments. It is a start although it is rather late in the debate.

I will explain why The Workers' Party are promoting an amendment. While I [1380] appreciate the thrust of Deputy Garland's arguments, I would ask him to reflect that my amendment proposes to insert a new idea and that later I will join with him in opposition to the Minister's proposals on section 2. However, we as legislators must face up to the way in which issues are emerging and circumstances are changing. There is a view abroad accepted at all levels of broadcasting that whether we like it or not there must be a diffusion of broadcasting services between the State and the independent sector. We must consider how to address that in a country such as ours where the State has enjoyed a monopoly and we are now trying to put in place a vibrant independent sector.

My proposals are an alternative to the Minister's proposal. My proposal is a very constructive one that has emerged from the debate, and has been forced upon us by the Bill being published and presented in the way it has been. It inevitably would have had to be addressed at some stage in the context of what is happening in Europe and in the market here. Film Makers Ireland, in the independent sector, have come up with a suggestion based on what is happening abroad and on what is proposed in the UK where, as the Minister has indicated, there is a State broadcasting service, the BBC, and an independent broadcasting service, Channel 4, which has existed for ten years or more. In Britain there is also a vibrant expanding film making sector. We must ask why and how. We cannot draw parallels on the question of capping, however, because advertising is not allowed there.

I am glad that no-one has argued that because there is no advertising there, we should not have capping or advertising at all. There is no comparison between the market that provides licence revenue to the BBC and the market available here. What exists in Britain and what has informally operated here up until now is a reservation by the broadcasters of 25 per cent of home-produced programmes being commissioned in the independent sector. Film Makers Ireland, the independent film makers here, wish to try [1381] something similar here and they quite clearly say that this should be tried as an alternative to the notion of crude capping as a device to move resources from the State sector into the independent sector, as a device to be phased in in a constructive way that will gradually shift the emphasis on resources for programme making from the State to the independent sector and allow the market to assimilate job losses in one sector and gains in the other. This suggestion is worth debating and considering. I acknowledge that the Minister has attempted to address the proposition but he has not gone far enough in his amendment. For that reason I am persisting with amendment No. 11 to make the point of clearly rejecting capping. I will support the efforts of Deputy Garland and others to challenge that concept, but it is incumbent on us to look at the issues and suggest possible alternatives.

There is an emerging vibrant market and I am convinced that the shift in resources can be managed by RTE. I have consulted the RTE unions and manager associations and they say they could survive with the competition and the incursion into their resources provided it was on a phased basis and provided this proposition was taken as an alternative to the crude capping notion. I am fortified by their views. There is agreement between the State sector and the independent sector that this is a workable formula. This concept has been discussed within the industry and there is a general feeling that it could work.

The independent market has potential for expansion. The independent broadcasters thought that their proposal would increase their time from the current 180 hours to a share of something of the order of 750 hours, apparently 10 per cent of the overall broadcasting hours, in keeping with the EC Directive but which allows them to move in the home-produced area to the domestic 25 per cent of what is to be produced. They thought that this would in time lead to a job increase of 1,000 in their sector. For that reason this proposal should be looked at.

The Minister talked about the poor [1382] performance of RTE to date in terms of commissioning the domestic independent sector. It is not the fault of RTE. Over the last while RTE have undergone a fundamental change in structure and financing arising from the commissioned inquiry by Stokes Kennedy Crowley in 1985. RTE have achieved a remarkable turnabout. Over the last five years RTE had to look inwards but nonetheless they have achieved a significant amount in commissioning outside work. While the figure for 1989-90 of the domestic 5.14 per cent is equivalent to what was there in 1987-88, what does it represent in real money terms? While the percentage is the same the worth to the market has increased significantly. Independent Film Makers are a vibrant organisation with potential but they have had difficulties, not just difficulties which have been imposed on them by RTE's struggling to reorganise and restructure in terms of resources and employment, but also because during the same period Government and State effectively abandoned the independent film making sector in this area. They have been, independent of this debate, making representations to the Taoiseach, as the person in charge of cultural affairs, and to the Minister for Finance seeking tax breaks and so on.

For more than three years I have been raising this issue in the House but I did not receive any response. We must remember that the independent film council was closed down and that the State's studios, Ardmore, were sold off. It is not enough to say that the performance of RTE has been dismal. They were, as illustrated recently by their involvement in such co-productions as “Dear Sarah” and “Who Bombed Birmingham?”, kicking off into an expanded period of commissioning home-produced independent radio and television programmes. However, they have been stopped in their tracks and as a result are talking about retrenching inwards in the hope of dealing with the capping of their resources under the Bill.

We have to create the mix and I am disappointed that the Minister has not acknowledged ideology re-defined, if not [1383] ideology abandoned entirely, in that I do not have any difficulty in talking about the independent sector expanding.

Mr. Burke: I figured it was difficult for the Deputy to say that and I did not want him saying it.

Mr. McCartan: The independent sector will live and expand only alongside an expanding and vibrant State organisation. They are the major commissioner and without them the independent sector will be at a huge disadvantage. That is one of the reasons why we cannot talk about an expanding sector in one direction if alongside it we do not have an [1384] equally expanding and developing State sector. The Minister's proposals are contradictory: one seeks to expand and the other seeks to contract with both of them pulling against each other. In my amendment I am suggesting a way that will bring both of them together. We do not want any capping and we want a phasing-in period. We suggest that there should be a requirement that the State, as is the case with the independent, not be allowed to set up convenient subsidiaries as a device to try to meet their obligations under the Bill. I am seeking support for my amendment.

Amendment put.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 66; Níl, 75.

Ahearn, Therese.

Barnes, Monica.

Barrett, Seán.

Barry, Peter.

Bell, Michael.

Belton, Louis J.

Boylan, Andrew.

Bradford, Paul.

Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).

Bruton, John.

Bruton, Richard.

Byrne, Eric.

Carey, Donal.

Connor, John.

Cosgrave, Michael Joe.

Creed, Michael.

Currie, Austin.

Deenihan, Jimmy.

Doyle, Joe.

Dukes, Alan.

Durkan, Bernard.

Farrelly, John V.

Ferris, Michael.

Finucane, Michael.

FitzGerald, Garret.

Flaherty, Mary.

Flanagan, Charles.

Gilmore, Eamon.

Gregory, Tony.

Harte, Paddy.

Higgins, Jim.

Higgins, Michael D.

Hogan, Philip.

Howlin, Brendan.

Kavanagh, Liam.

Kemmy, Jim.

Kenny, Enda.

Lowry, Michael.

McCartan, Pat.

McCormack, Pádraic.

McGahon, Brendan.

Mac Giolla, Tomás.

McGrath, Paul.

Mitchell, Gay.

Mitchell, Jim.

Moynihan, Michael.

Nealon, Ted.

Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East).

O'Brien, Fergus.

O'Shea, Brian.

O'Sullivan, Toddy.

Owen, Nora.

Pattison, Séamus.

Quinn, Ruairí.

Rabbitte, Pat.

Reynolds, Gerry.

Ryan, Seán.

Shatter, Alan.

Sheehan, Patrick J.

Sherlock, Joe.

Spring, Dick.

Stagg, Emmet.

Taylor, Mervyn.

Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine

Timmins, Godfrey.

Yates, Ivan.

[1385][1386]Níl

Ahern, Dermot.

Ahern, Michael.

Andrews, David.

Aylward, Liam.

Barrett, Michael.

Brady, Gerard.

Brady, Vincent.

Brennan, Mattie.

Briscoe, Ben.

Browne, John (Wexford).

Burke, Raphael P.

Calleary, Seán.

Callely, Ivor.

Clohessy, Peadar.

Connolly, Ger.

Coughlan, Mary Theresa.

Cowen, Brian.

Cullimore, Séamus.

Daly, Brendan.

Davern, Noel.

Dempsey, Noel.

Dennehy, John.

de Valera, Síle.

Ellis, John.

Fahey, Frank.

Fahey, Jackie.

Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.

Fitzpatrick, Dermot.

Flood, Chris.

Flynn, Pádraig.

Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.

Harney, Mary.

Hillery, Brian.

Hilliard, Colm.

Hyland, Liam.

Jacob, Joe.

Kelly, Laurence.

Kenneally, Brendan.

Kirk, Séamus.

Kitt, Michael P.

Kitt, Tom.

Lawlor, Liam.

Leonard, Jimmy.

Leyden, Terry.

Lyons, Denis.

McCreevy, Charlie.

McDaid, Jim.

McEllistrim, Tom.

Morley, P.J.

Nolan, M.J.

Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).

O'Connell, John.

O'Dea, Willie.

O'Donoghue, John.

O'Hanlon, Rory.

O'Keeffe, Ned.

O'Kennedy, Michael.

O'Leary, John.

O'Malley, Desmond J.

O'Rourke, Mary.

O'Toole, Martin Joe.

Power, Seán.

Quill, Máirín.

Reynolds, Albert.

Roche, Dick.

Smith, Michael.

Stafford, John.

Treacy, Noel.

Tunney, Jim.

Wallace, Dan.

Wallace, Mary.

Walsh, Joe.

Wilson, John P.

Woods, Michael.

Wyse, Pearse.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Byrne and McCartan; Níl, Deputies V. Brady and Clohessy.

Amendment declared lost.

An Ceann Comhairle: We now proceed to deal with amendment No. 12 in the name of Deputy Garland. Amendments Nos. 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 17, are alternatives to No. 12, and amendment No. 26 is consequential on amendment No. 14. I suggest therefore that we discuss amendments Nos. 12 to 17, inclusive, amendment No. 1, to amendment No. 17 and amendment No. 26 together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Garland: I move amendment No. 12:

In page 4, to delete lines 7 to 17.

This amendment would delete subsection (1) of section 2. The Bill before the House makes an unwarranted attack on the constitutional right of RTE to decide on their own broadcasting policy, particularly with regard to the timing of programmes. It seems the benefit of a licence fee income, unique to RTE, does not justify such undue interference in RTE's affairs by the Minister. I would go so far as to say that this Bill and all previous Acts on broadcasting attack the constitutional right of all broadcasters, under Article 40.6.1º of Bunreacht na hÉireann, to broadcast as they see fit, in a manner similar to publishing, subject only to the condition that they do not exceed the constraints set out in that article.

The Green Party, Comhaontas Glas, [1387] have devised a practical and legal mechanism for totally revising the broadcasting system to reduce the role of the Minister and to remove the IRTC while ensuring that the Constitution provisions are adhered to. Under our scheme the Minister would not have so much influence over RTE in finance or advertising policy or over any other broadcasters. One wonders why so much control over broadcasters is required to level the pitch, as it were, when fairly amateur stations such as the so-called pirates were able to effectively challenge RTE. We would like to see a totally new approach to broadcasting including a revision of the infamous section 31. The aim would be to leave RTE pretty much to their own devices, to allow those who wish to broadcast to do so subject to the constraints of the Constitution, and to set aside a segment of the airwaves for community and special interest type broadcasters who will operate without advertising. Dependence on advertising is not good for radio or television and there are alternatives as with public radio and TV in the US where the State has no controls on advertising of the character set down in section 2 (1).

We would like to see the role of the Minister reduced to a minimum since we believe that the current roles of the Minister and of the independent radio and television commission, as established by him, are unconstitutional and not in the general interest of democratic communications. The role of the Minister and the IRTC in choosing who may broadcast, and how they must broadcast, is clearly in contravention of Article 40.6.1X i. of Bunreacht na hÉireann which states:

The right of the citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions.

The education of public opinion being, however, a matter of such grave import to the common good, the State shall endeavour to ensure that organs of public opinion, such as the radio, the press, the cinema, while preserving their rightful liberty of expression, [1388] incuding criticism of Government policy, shall not be used to undermine public order or morality or the authority of the State.

We take some succour from the fact that The Irish Law Times devoted a recent editorial to the unconstitutionality of this Bill.

To cater for the conditions applied in this article, we see a greater monitoring role for the Broadcasting Complaints Commission which would at the same time have to be open to public scrutiny, by issuing reasons for its decisions and by holding public hearings when requested. It is somewhat similar to Bord Pleanála only better.

Our amendment proposes to remove one of the subsections which tend to give a role to the Minister. We would like to see many more amendments which would remove the IRTC, or in relation to where we feel the Minister is extending his powers too far. The amendment we propose to insert instead of section 2 (1) would include repeals in the Acts of 1926 and 1988, where we aim to remove the IRTC altogether and again remove the Minister from any major role in broadcasting.

The main part of our proposal is to replace section 5 in the Radio and Television Act, is set up a new procedure for the issue of broadcasting licences. It would not facilitate the undue and unnecessary interference in RTE which would result from section 2 of the Bill. The basis would be the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech both in publishing and broadcasting.

We take further support for our position from the UN Declaration on Human Rights which was recently fully implemented by this State. Article 19 of this Declaration reads:

Everyone has a right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.

[1389] That sets out the position very well; that people have full access to the published medium. Anything other than full access to the airwaves is, in our opinion, a breach of the Constitution and the UN Declaration. Is the Minister aiming to regulate advertising in newspapers next? Under our scheme, all applicants would receive a licence for a designated frequency at the power output level they requested, assuming space was available on the airwaves. The limiting factor, as discovered by the so-called pirates, even in Dublin, was economics not airwaves. Only 24 or so survived and fewer would have done so had they not been allowed in out of the cold. In the US the space on the airwaves allows cities like New York to have in excess of 100 stations. Under the proposed scheme it would be an offence for the broadcasters to exceed the power limit, wander off the frequency, to advertise if the licence was for a frequency in the non-advertising segment or to undermine the State or public morality. Outside of these limitations freedom of expression could be enjoyed and democratic debate without State or business interference could ensue should it be desired and a diversity of services could emerge. The advertising policy would be a matter entirely for the broadcaster.

Critics of open airwaves refer to Italy as a bad example and even quote the US as an example of largely deregulated broadcasting. However, we see some merit in both situations. In Italy, for example in Canale 5, which is an independent station, it rivals RAI which is the public service network for quality. There are also some smaller political stations which open up public debate. The apparent chaos arose because the legislators thought they could control the airwaves but the constitutional court in Italy ruled that the State had overstepped the mark and now there is no regulation at all. I can see a similar situation arising here and I believe the reason the pirates were not tackled sooner was because the State realised their legal legitimacy and were afraid to tackle them. It awaited the backing of the EC. New Directives will [1390] be coming from the EC on the subject of broadcasting. If the State acts now it can avoid this chaos.

In the US, apart from the large dose of awful television with copious advertising, there is public television and radio, which are funded by subscription and have no advertising, and yet remain independent. That appears to be the best model yet developed anywhere. I see no opportunity for it to develop under the Minister's draconian legislation.

We have all come to recognise the powerful role of the broadcast media and this appears to occupy the mind of the current Minister a little too much for the health of our democracy, and even business, as indicated by the current debacle. The only solution is to allow maximum access to the airwaves and allow those keen enough to broadcast to sort it out between themselves.

In a deregulated scheme we would like to replace section 31 with a better mechanism which would give people the benefit of the doubt as is normal under the law. The role of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission is an important one and I would like to see it developed into one which would make broadcasting as a whole much more flexible. In broadcasting we are faced with a situation slightly different from publishing, where the message may reach the public before we can stop it, so we must develop mechanisms which on the one hand seek to avoid broadcasts which would undermine the State as per Article 40 of Bunreacht na hÉireann while on the other hand allowing the greatest freedom of speech as per the same Article.

Section 31, as it stands, clearly represents a poor compromise between these ideals. I hasten to add that I am in no way questioning the 1982 decision of the Supreme Court in the Lynch v. Cooney case.

An Ceann Comhairle: While I hesitate to interrupt the Deputy, I have given him a lot of latitude but clearly he is embarking on a Second Reading speech.

[1391] Mr. Garland: Just another two minutes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Fine, Deputy.

Mr. Garland: I am proposing an alternative system for coping with this delicate situation which would not have been presented to those Supreme Court judges for their consideration.

In attempting to tackle what The Irish Times once described as the blunt instrument of section 31, we have come up with a rather complex: amendment which would amend three Acts of the Oireacthas and revoke all orders under section 31. It would allow all broadcasters to proceed with their work unhindered, which is what happens today in the case of most publishers. They would have to consider only what they were broadcasting in the light of the constraints of Article 40.6.1º of the Constitution as well as the normal considerations of libel, copyright and so on. Should they breach those constraints they would be subjected to the rigour of the law, as should happen when any publisher for any reason, attempts to undermine the State.

Due to the nature of broadcasting, the mechanism would be different and would require that the Broadcasting Complaints Commission monitor broadcasts or act on a complaint, referring the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions if, in their opinion, a breach had occurred. That mechanism would avoid the present injustice whereby broadcasters, and those who wish to participate in broadcasts such as Sinn Féin, are found guilty before being given a chance to commit a crime. It is like keeping a customer out of a supermarket for fear that they might steal. The law is based on an assumption of innocence until guilt is proven. That is what is so offensive, from a human rights point of view, about section 31. Did the State not often sully its record by involving itself in ill-treatment of witnesses in Garda stations? Everyone, including the State, should be subject to the same rules and punishment when they transgress them.

The House will be aware that the [1392] Green Party abhor violence from wherever it emanates, whether from terrorists, freedom fighters or the State, which more often than not initiates it, as in Northern Ireland and South Africa. I and my colleagues of the Green Party would welcome an opportunity to argue the question of violence at length with Gerry Adams, the British Prime Minister, the Minister for Communications, Nelson Mandela or anyone else on television. I see absolutely nothing wrong with that kind of openness.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy has strayed very far from his amendment.

Mr. McCartan: Probably this is the kernel of this debate relating to the Minister's approach in regulating the advertising revenue of RTE by the crude, unimaginative device of fixing arbitrary limits on the amount of time RTE can devote to advertising and, as a result, controlling their revenue potential. It cannot be forgotten that, in addition to this, it is suggested that, should RTE exceed their income limits in any given year from advertising — in excess of a figure equivalent to their licence fee revenue — they will be penalised in the following year. For all of those reasons the Minister — while on the one hand advocating that there should be a free, open, competitive market in which the State sector should be expected and requested to perform as a commercial enterprise, has built into the Bill an absolute bias against potential commerciality within the broadcasting State sector. For that reason, I and The Workers' Party are implacably opposed to what the Minister suggests.

Late though it be in the debate we must make the point absolutely clear that, despite all the efforts and so-called responses of the Minister to representations made to him and much of the misunderstood reaction from whatever sector outside this House, the essence of this Bill has not changed one iota since the Minister introduced his Bill, mark II, in the House. To date any efforts on our part or on the part of people outside to prevail on the Minister to be reasonable, to listen to what is being said, have borne [1393] little, if any, fruit. It is hoped that, by the conclusion of the debate on this group of related amendments — all related to the issue of capping of revenue in RTE — the Minister will see his way to reconsider.

There are a number of alternatives in this group of amendments. We have listened to Deputy Garland suggest that section 2(1) be deleted. There is no alternative suggested. Amendment No. 13, which I put down on behalf of The Workers' Party, says:

In page 4, to delete lines 7 to 17 and substitute the following:

“(1) The total daily time for broadcasting advertisements shall be fixed by the Authority, but shall not be greater than the level specified in the appropriate directive from the European Community.”

We know which Directive that is, the one to which I referred in the context of the previous amendment. We know that in that Directive there are limits laid down. For example, Article 18 says:

1. The amount of advertising shall not exceed 15 per cent of the daily transmission time. However, this percentage may be increased to 20 per cent to include forms of advertisements such as direct offers to the public for the sale, purchase or rental of products or for the provision of services, provided the amount of spot advertising does not exceed 15 per cent.

2. The amount of spot advertising within a given one-hour period shall not exceed 20 per cent.

3. Without prejudice to the provisions of paragraph 1, forms of advertisements such as direct offers to the public for the sale, purchase or rental of products or for the provision of services shall not exceed one hour per day.

Then there is the provision in Article 19, which I quote:

Member States may lay down stricter rules than those in Article 18 for [1394] programming time and the procedures for television broadcasting for television broadcasters under their jurisdiction, so as to reconcile demand for televised advertising with the public interest, taking account in particular of:

(a) the role of television in providing information, education, culture and entertainment;

(b) the protection of pluralism of information and of the media.

Article 18, which we contend contains the overriding guidelines in that EC Directive which should be followed as the maximum times for the purposes of the RTE Authority, laid down generous limits if one has regard to the position prevailing in RTE of percentage advertising time and share-out of the minute per hour, certainly far more generous than what is intended should the Minister have his way under section 2(1).

The appropriate body at any given time to regulate the whole question of advertising should be the RTE Authority. They are the people charged with the administration, running and organisation of that broadcasting body. They are the people charged with the everyday running management and control of the station. They are the broadcasters. They are the people who know and who should be empowered to regulate within the spirit of the law and directives as they obtain. Whatever the level of advertising to be fixed by legislation, emanating from this Bill today or otherwise — it should then be left to the RTE Authority. Our role as legislators and that of the Minister in promoting legislation should be to establish an upper limit, the limits laid down by the EC Directive or otherwise. If we want to be less generous than that EC Directive, so be it; let us make the case in this House, but set upper limits, saying: that is the maximum and beyond that no broadcaster should proceed. Thereafter it is a matter for the market itself, for the broadcasting authorities in control of the State broadcasting station, on the one [1395] hand, and the private independent broadcasting stations, on the other, to determine the best way of organising and distributing that percentage throughout broadcasting hours in any one day. That is what is advanced in our proposal. We urge the Minister to consider that formula.

The Minister proposes a regime that is far less generous than the EC Directive. I would challenge the Minister to tell us of any other State in Europe that imposes as restrictive conditions on advertising in regard to a state broadcaster in comparable circumstances. I do not believe there is such. I say also that the Minister simply has not made a case, in the course of debate here, for having limits as restrictive as those laid down in his section 2. He has not said where he got the figures from. He has given no good reason the percentage should be half what is proposed by the EC Directive, although they allow, in certain circumstances, up to 20 per cent.

We go now to the times allotted. The Minister originally suggested that the period should be four and a half minutes and, in the course of representations, has now gone as far as five minutes. He says that the increase of 30 seconds was prompted by the charitable organisations who are concerned about their entitlements to facilities at a preferential rate. He said later in the debate that it was a response to ICTU who were concerned that the proposal for four and a half minutes was simply too restrictive and would have a detrimental impact on jobs in the industry. I would like to hear from the Minister his justification that that represents a saving of £2 million for RTE that would translate into the protection of jobs, and what would now be the expected job loss as a result of the improvement in the Minister's amendment. Is it the case, as I suspect, that the Minister's figure is an ill-conceived, ill-researched and poorly defined parameter, so shoddy that the Minister is in a position to throw in 30 seconds here or there?

I would urge the Minister to have [1396] regard to the fact that the urgency which prompted his manoeuvre in this area has passed. There is no gainsaying the fact that what we were about initially in this legislation was throwing a lifeline to Century who were in trouble and in need of immediate help. They have apparently read the figures and have now got back out into the market equipped with the listeners' survey to say to their potential advertisers and backers that they were actually doing better than they thought and want to renegotiate. They have, clearly, at this stage found their lifeline elsewhere, so the urgency of this capping arrangement, proposed by the Minister, has passed. There is no immediate need for what the Minister is proposing. For that reason the Minister can and should look to some of the alternatives suggested to him in the group of amendments that are here.

The Minister has said that there is not just Century, but other areas. TV3 is not there. Surely we have made the point well that if the Minister proceeds with his capping proposal in the absence of TV3, inevitably what is drawn out from broadcasting revenue will go to television broadcasting available within the State but emanating from outside in the form of UTV, BBC and the independent, Sky. There is cogent argument to suggest that the Minister should stay his hand on this issue.

Finally I come to the print media. The print media has survived exceptionally well and is expanding. Recently we had the courageous innovation of The Dublin Tribune as another addition. While they complain of unfair conditions and market there does not seem to be any indications of a contracting market in this area as a result of loss of advertising revenue. I hope the Minister will not suggest that the misfortuntes of the Irish Press Group, which are entirely the misfortunes of a company mismanaged and poorly run, are a direct result of anything that has happened in the advertising area. It is just not so. I will not go into that debate. The Minister suggested last night that there was a link. I am saying to the Minister that the print media is doing well [1397] and is expanding where it is well managed and properly structured and can survive a little longer in the market if necessary so that we can have a more reasoned approach to this whole area of how to draw revenue from one sector and move it constructively into other areas of the advertising industry.

In that regard I have to acknowledge that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions have made a submission to the Minister that they could, if they were so disposed, increase the advertising times if the capping process is to be relied on by him. The RTE Managers' Association have also made this case to the Minister and have said that the period of advertising should be further increased upwards from five minutes to as close as possible to six minutes per hour. This suggestion was made in their most recent submission of 9 July in response to the debate on Committee Stage. In their letter they said they would like to see changes in the Bill as follows: first, an increase in the time from five minutes an hour up to, as close as possible, six minutes an hour and have this expressed as an average with the scope, if needs be, to gradually reduce the minutes over the next few years. They said that this would help them to adjust generally downwards to the new environment. Here is a representation from those who actually manage the RTE Authority, who are being reasonable, who are saying they want to deal with this on a phased basis and are asking the Minister not to take them down from seven and a half minutes to five minutes as proposed. They make a good case, and the Minister should look at it, and he has the opportunity to look at it in the context of this group of amendments because it is suggested by Deputy O'Sullivan, on behalf of the Labour group, at amendment No. 16, that an average in any one week can exceed six minutes provided that any consecutive period of four hours, does not exceed 24 minutes. That is clearly on all fours with what the RTE Managers' Association are advocating as a possible compromise in this regard, recognising that the Minister is bent on the approach.

[1398] If the Minister is rejecting the proposal that I advance in amendment No. 13, I am prepared to get into a discussion with him in the hope that he would be prepared to advance on the period of five minutes as he proposes in his amendments. We are late in the debate in dealing with this. There is little over an hour remaining. It is important that the Minister look again at the figures he is proposing and the way in which he intends to implement them. I am asking the Minister, at this late stage, to consider an improvement on the period of the capping he talks about. I would ask him to look at the formulae contained in any of these amendments and allow for a phasing in period so that the impact is not as sudden as it will be if the legislation is implemented from 1 October 1990 or earlier. It is time the Minister listened not only to the views of people outside the House but to what we on this side of the House have been saying. I would urge the Minister to respond more favourably and more generously, recognising that there is scope for approaching this issue from a different direction, or at least with some form of compromise.

Mr. J. Mitchell: This amendment and the associated amendments deal with the core of the Bill, and it is a rotten core indeed. It serves no good purpose whatsoever except perhaps it may save face for the Minister and may satisfy his feeling of self-importance. Before the House is a range of amendments, all of which would give the Minister more flexibility. Even at this late stage I would ask the Minister not to dismiss the unanimous appeals of this side of the House and the quieter appeals from some on his own side not to impose this ignorant vice-grip on RTE, which will immobolise all incentive and all enterprise in our national broadcasting corporation.

The Minister's proposal in this section is one of the most rigid proposals that has ever been put before this House. It allows for no flexibility either to the Authority or to the Minister who may, on reflection or after the lapse of a few months, see the devastation he has wreaked on RTE. [1399] The proposals in section 4 of the original Bill, bad as they were, at least gave the Minister some flexibility. They allowed the Minister to come back with an order to the House, and orders can always be amended subsequently. In this Bill, not only does the Minister immobilise RTE but he immobolises himself in an ignorant vice-grip, and such is the corner he has pushed himself into.

Let us reflect on the specific provisions of the section as it is now presented. If the amendment in the name of the Minister is carried, RTE will be able to advertise not for an average or a minimum but for a maximum of five minutes in every hour, peak time or otherwise. That means they may not advertise for more than five minutes in any hour even though they may only advertise for three minutes in the preceding or the following hour. That removes all flexibility and has no regard to the nature of radio or television which has peak and off-peak hours. As anyone with an ounce of sense knows, in any business you make most of your money during the peak season or the peak hour. RTE are being told they may not do any more business in the peak time than they can do in the off peak time. This is a recipe for disaster. It removes all purpose for enterprise within RTE. The amount of earnings allowed by the Minister from advertising, sponsorship and other commercial activities will be much less than they have been earning. This will induce in RTE a lack of interest. People respond to incentive not only in financial terms but in other terms, and if all commercial incentive is removed from RTE, I am absolutely certain it will affect all areas.

Why should the Minister want to wreak havoc on RTE? Why should he want to put RTE in a tighter bind than any other television service in Europe and probably in the developed world? He has at various times put forward certain arguments, one of which is that he wanted to create an opening for TV3. If that is the case, why did he not wait until TV3 was about to be set up? The latest indications are that TV3 will not be set up before the end [1400] of next year at the earliest. Given the number of dates that have been set previously for the setting up of TV3, only to be postponed, there can be very little confidence that TV3 will meet its new deadline of end-1991.

Let us assume it does meet that deadline, would it not be more realistic for the Minister to set the deadline for the commencement of this Act at 1 October 1991 rather than 1 October 1990? Would it not be more sensible for him to take power to commence the Act by order, giving himself the flexibility and discretion to commence it at a time most likely to coincide with the setting up of TV3, if that should ever come about? Does the Minister not see the consequences of not accepting that reasonable amendment which gives him greater flexibility and discretion? Does he not realise that by not accepting that amendment, he may be scuppering all existing hope of TV3 getting off the ground? Is there not a very strong case to suggest that the capping of RTE in advance of TV3 will lead not only to a leak of money to UTV and the satellite channels but to a flood of money out of the State to those services from 1 October, because there is no other medium available to take up the slack thereby created?

That is the sort of ignorant vice-grip the Minister is imposing not only on RTE but on himself. In my time in this House, and in my knowledge of the proceedings of the House, I have never seen a more ill-considered, unwise and bad section in a Bill. When TV3 is set up it will be hard to recoup the advertising funds that will have leaked out of the State to UTV, as has been unanimously predicted by all those in the advertising world. This creates an even greater uncertainty about whether TV3 will ever be set up.

In the earlier debates on this whole issue, initiated by Fine Gael in May, we discussed the problems of Century Radio in surviving as a national alternative radio service. Could the Minister quantify any benefit that he believes will accrue to Century or to other radio services as a result of the measures he seeks to impose? Can he quantify the assistance [1401] that will be given to Century and other commercial stations by way of diverted advertising revenue? Can he guarantee that this measure is the one that will save alternative national radio? If there is a doubt about an alternative national radio, how can there be any confidence about alternative national television? Even if the total £12 million to be diverted annually from RTE goes to the alternative national station — as the Minister is so prone to point out it is only £12 million — it is a huge amount for any organisation to do without, but it is only a fraction of the reduced budget of RTE, which in turn is a fraction of ITV's budget or the budget of the BBC, with whom RTE have to compete.

The Minister has painted himself very clearly into a desperate corner. If he were man enough, he would acknowledge the fact even at this late stage and withdraw this mendacious proposal. I hope, Sir, that in the remaining hour of debate left on this section, the Minister will at least — if he does not accept any of the amendments proposed from this side of the House — give himself greater flexibility, so that if the worst effects forecast as a result of the present proposals actually materialise, he will have discretion to ameliorate the situation by order of this House.

Bad and all as the original proposals were, they at least had the merit of including such a proposal. For the life of me, I cannot see why the Minister removed this discretion, except that it was done in a hurry by way of short cut, which the Minister for Industry and Commerce referred to. We have had three sets of proposals from the Minister, each more hurried than the other and none of which was the subject of a Government memorandum or circulated in the normal course for observation. It was a rushed job, a botched job, from beginning to end. As a result of the rushing of fences, we have before us a most dangerous and adverse proposal.

An Ceann Comhairle: I hesitate to interrupt Deputy Mitchell, but I was going to have the temerity to suggest that [1402] having regard to the fact that our time is becoming rather limited and the desire of other Members to participate, especially those who have amendments tabled, we might have regard to the desirability of utilising the limited time available to us in a more equitable and fairer fashion.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Thank you, Sir, I have heard what you have said and I will not continue for much longer although, as you, Sir, will appreciate, it is the central proposal of the Bill to which we are implacably opposed.

An Ceann Comhairle: I thank the Deputy for his kind consideration.

Mr. J. Mitchell: I feel it is my duty as the main Opposition spokesman on the subject to reiterate our strong request that even at this late stage the Minister will see the folly of his present proposals. If he does not feel like withdrawing them I ask that he at least accept some power to change them in the future in the event that the forecasts from this side of the House and from outside the House materialise, as I am quite sure they will.

The Minister has had quite a good record in introducing broadcasting legislation up until now and I would be the first to admit that. After becoming Minister, he acted swiftly to deal with the pirate radio stations. I, for one, was glad that he was able to do so and that he was able to build on the foundations laid by the previous Government. I am also glad that we on this side of the House supported those proposals in general.

In an area as sensitive and important to democracy as broadcasting it is vital that there is at least some degree of consensus on central issues such as those dealt with in section 2. I hope, Sir, that the purpose of the different Stages of the Bill is not lost on the Minister. The purpose of this long, tortuous process is to improve legislation and for the Government to hear what parliament has to say. I hope the Government and the Minister are listening and that they do not proceed with the present proposals [1403] unamended. It would be a disaster if they did so.

Mr. M. Higgins: Amendments Nos. 14 to 16, inclusive, and No. 26 are tabled by Deputy O'Sullivan on behalf of the Labour Party. I will try to be as economical as I can in outlining what lies behind these amendments.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Minister may also require a little time.

Mr. M. Higgins: We were interested in responding to a suggestion made by the Minister on a previous Stage that he wished that those who opposed his proposals for raising revenue for the independent sector would come up with proposals or alternatives to what he had suggested.

A great deal has been said, and it does not need to be repeated, about the effects of capping. Capping interferes with the marketplace and it has already been stated in the House, and it is an opinion with which I agree that it is in breach of Article 40.6.1ºi which deals with the freedom to publish and to broadcast. The suggestion that an editor in the case of the print media or a person who is running an advertising section in the visual media would be restricted from accepting or seeking forms of advertising or having to choose between potential advertisers is in clear breach of the freedom that is referred to in Article 40.6.1ºi. This is not only my opinion but is an opinion offered in The Irish Law Times, volume 8, No. 7, July 1990.

The effects of capping are very crude, there is an immediate loss of income and an intereference with the structure of funding, programming and employment within RTE. In amendment No. 14 we are suggesting as an alternative a levy on the gross advertising revenue of stations. In suggesting this, we were very cognisant of the fact that we needed to pin down the levy so that it could not be raised arbitrarily. We have suggested that it be limited to a levy that would generate an income of £5 million for the Independent [1404] Radio and Television Commission, which in turn would be able to listen to requests from independent stations carrying the burden of public service broadcasting and also they would be able to listen to requests for community radio where, for example, community radio would find it difficult to come into existence. Even if the levy yields more than £5 million it will sink as a percentage the following year. The important point about this mechanism of raising funds is that it will not, unlike the capping proposals, interfere with the freedom of RTE in relation to advertising and will not distort the market. It will enable RTE to earn more, provide revenue and income for the Independent Radio and Television Commission and provide a source of funding for the independent sector.

We were very conscious in putting forward this amendment of the need to put forward a proposal which would recommend itself to all parties in this House and be a broadcasting solution. The proposal put forward in amendment No. 14 and our other amendments are designed to extend public choice in broadcasting by providing the financial resources to ensure that competition will be on the basis of programming quality and will strike a fair balance between RTE and the independent radio and television stations. We are willing to accept the arguments put forward about the costings which have been set for the public sector broadcasting component of the independents. We believe our proposal will lead to equality between the independent sector and RTE. It would also lead to integration between the independents and community radio, which are out of kilter. I admit that there have been applications made very late in the day for community broadcasting and early applications for commercial broadcasting and I believe our proposal will ensure a balanced and integrated independent community and State sector in broadcasting.

Our proposal will protect public service broadcasting in RTE and employment [1405] and advertising in RTE and in the independents. This proposal will be able to answer the submissions made by, among others, the Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland and practically all of the groups who have lobbied both the Minister and the Opposition parties. As I have said, it will encourage competition on the basis of programme quality between RTE and the independent sector in both radio and television. Because stations will be able to go to the IRTC for money when they are in difficulty it will encourage the extension of public service broadcasting by including the independent sector and prevent the development of purely commercial broadcasting by either RTE 2 or TV3.

In reply to the arguments that stations in difficulty will be able to apply immediately for assistance from the fund I ask what will happen to those stations who are not in any difficulty. What we are proposing is similar to the fund which exists in the insurance industry, aspects of the financial services and the professions. These stations would know that they could apply for assistance from the fund if they got into difficulties as a result of having to carry the costs of public service broadcasting. It would also build a certain sense of mutuality between the participants in the independent sector.

Our proposal in relation to the levy on gross advertising revenue has the great advantage of being both legal and constitutional. It will not interfere in the marketplace and will not put the hand of the State into the marketplace so that it can say “you can only earn this much advertising” or refuse certain companies which have been identified by the courts. This proposal will avoid all the difficulties posed by the cap on advertising revenue, which I sincerely believe has a legal and constitutional shadow on it.

I want to refer to some of our other amendments. In regard to applications to the IRTC both in the short term and over a period of time, the IRTC will be free to lay down conditions for the implementation of public service broadcasting norms within the independents. In other words the IRTC will be beefed up with funding [1406] and allowed to establish criteria so that the independent sector can apply to them in an open way. This would mean that there would be straightforward accountable forms of funding rather than back door subsidisation without any accountability whatsoever.

I want to refer to the European Community and conditions after 1992. The levy we are proposing would be imposed on all larger radio stations, TV3 and RTE. This would dispose of the argument that one has singled out RTE for a sledge hammer approach. The Minister said he would like to think of it as the light touch of the State. The proposal in relation to RTE would not qualify as a light touch.

Dr. FitzGerald: A light touch has many meanings.

Mr. M. Higgins: I should like to clarify another aspect of our proposal. We propose that there should be a threshold of £1 million for stations who do not receive significant gross advertising revenue so that they would not have to come into the net at all. This would have the merit of treating stations equally and generate revenue in such a way that it would assist in the retention of jobs. Our proposal would not in any way restrict RTE's capacity to increase their revenue from advertising and I do not think it would penalise TV3, should they emerge. It would enhance the quality of programming on TV3 with great emphasis being placed on home-produced rather than imported programmes.

I will finish soon because many other people wish to speak. Good sense should prevail at this stage. As the Institute of Advertising practitioners clearly stated in their letter of 10 July, the notion that the advertising knocked off RTE will go to the printed medium simply does not stand up. I do not want to say too much about this but the strength of the signal of UTV in the Dublin area will mean that there will be a loss of advertising to that station and with it the loss of a number of creative jobs in RTE, etc. Even at this stage good sense should prevail. The levy we propose will not put a stranglehold on [1407] RTE, is fair and will not lead to a leakage of advertising from the State. It will also assist in the growth of independent film production.

The Members of the House must judge between the proposals being put forward in this group of amendments by the Labour Party and the capping proposal being put forward by the Minister. The proposal to cap the advertising revenue of RTE must be considered in the same light as the proposal to transfer the licence fee. It will simply prevent RTE from providing the full range of services which they are required to do by the Broadcasting Acts. This is rather like boot boy economics, that is, RTE must be injured because they have a monopoly. I have said enough about this issue already.

This proposal is a fundamental departure from the proposals put forward by the Minister on Second Stage and in other broadcasting debates. By going back to this proposal he is advocating the heavy touch for RTE, putting a ceiling on them and stopping them from performing in the marketplace with freedom and equality, and advocating a light touch for others.

The Minister may say, as he has said already, that he was waiting for this amendment to say what he thinks about the Labour Party proposals. It is very clear that RTE will contribute approximately 75 per cent of the £5 million about which we speak. Subsection (4) of amendment No. 14 provides that the subvention should remain at this level as advertising revenue increases for both RTE and the new TV station. This means that, a sum having been specified, the percentage of the levy will continue to slide down proportionately as advertising volume increases in both TV3 and RTE. It is equally clear that part of the levy on RTE will go to the community sector. To a degree it would be up to the independents themselves, in relation to the other amendments we proposed, whether they want to come in under IRTC conditions. For example, the IRTC might require equity and other [1408] conditions and if the independents felt they could not accept these conditions they could avoid coming to the IRTC. As I mentioned, the fund would be available for community radio and Telefís na Gaeltachta. The exemption I mentioned would ensure that small stations without much revenue would be exempt.

I ask the Minister to accept that there is nothing fundamentally ideological about this amendment, it represents a practical attempt at answering the challenge to produce a form of income which would enable the present difficulties of the independent sector to be answered and to guard against potential future difficulties. At the same time it would leave RTE free to operate like any other entity in the marketplace and to continue doing what they are best at. It would also be an incentive to increase advertising because the greater proportion would stay at home.

Less than ten years ago — the Minister avoided referring to this — a great deal of advertising material on the media was made outside this country, the figure might have been 80 per cent, and 20 per cent was made at home. Today the ratio is the other way round, 20 per cent is imported and 80 per cent is made at home. Our proposals leave jobs within RTE, independent film making, the advertising industry and in the creative areas on their periphery. It stops the leaking of funds and integrates and provides a source of funding for community radio where it might not otherwise exist. It leaves independent stations below a certain figure intact, it integrates within the IRTC and, not only gives it funding but the capacity to deal with commercial independents and the community.

Because the levy falls not only on RTE but on all the players in the independent field, it will lead to the orderly development between State broadcasting, which is controlled by an Authority, and the IRTC, which will be managing all aspects of the independent area. This proposal would be acceptable to all the main players in the field, the workers and those involved in the peripheral, creative areas. I strongly urge the Minister to accept it [1409] as an alternative to the crudeness, potentially illegal, almost certainly unconstitutional and disastrous consequences which will flow from his proposals for capping.

Deputies Mac Giolla and G. FitzGerald rose.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I will call Deputy FitzGerald. Unfortunately for Deputy Mac Giolla, there is a tradition of seniority in the matter of calling and I know he will accept that I must call Deputy FitzGerald.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Is the seniority based on age or membership?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: It is based on the years spent — or endured — in this House.

Dr. G. FitzGerald: I was not seeking to pull rank, I just thought it was the turn of Fine Gael. At any rate, I will not be long and Deputy Mac Giolla will get a chance to speak quite soon.

I want to stand back from this issue and look at it in a detached way. What should the role of a Government be in relation to a public broadcasting organisation which is financed by licence fees and advertising? I would have thought that, in the public interest, their concern should be to balance two things.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Excuse me, Deputy FitzGerald. I see a note here that Deputy Dempsey was entitled to speak. He did not offer and I did not know that. However, I called Deputy FitzGerald and he is entitled to speak.

Dr. G. FitzGerald: As I was saying, their concern should be to balance two things, to maximise the commercial revenue of public broadcasting or to minimise the call on the licence fee while, at the same time, taking account of the fact that there is a public interest in avoiding an excessive volume of advertising which is intrusive or an abuse of advertising. Some limits or limitation on the kind of [1410] advertising to be shown should not be ruled out on principle. The primary concern must be to maximise the commercial revenue and to limit the call on the ordinary licence holder. This extraordinary capping proposal is designed to minimise, or limit, the amount of commercial revenue which, of course, means that, for any volume of activity required from RTE, the licence holder will have to pay more. This is such a perverse approach that one must ask why it has been adopted.

The limitation on the amount of advertising can be argued about — the EC limits are very high, intrusive and damaging to people who want to watch television without too many interruptions — but the present situation in RTE is right. We should all like to see less advertising but we must accept that money is raised in that way. Some reduction or control might be acceptable but the linking of that to a capping mechanism is totally unacceptable because it will not enable them to maximise revenue from whatever time is thought appropriate for advertising, it will limit the amount of revenue. I can think of only one explanation and none has been given in this debate. It is to put power in the hands of a Minister to exercise influence over the broadcasting system because of the threat all the time that if they do not behave themselves vis-à-vis the Government the licence fee might be reduced. This would be popular with the public and it could be done at a time when RTE — as we all do — make a mistake. They could do it at a time when RTE are temporarily unpopular and in that way RTE could be punished. When this Bill is passed RTE will know that they are open to that sort of thing.

Frankly, in this country, there is not a great record of moral courage in various institutions or among people who have to take public responsibility. I hope — and believe — that RTE will have the courage to stand up to this; if they do they will find, in practice, that even the Minister will find it a bit difficult to try this tactic because his bluff could be called. The purpose of this is to give him at best the power to bluff and at worst to act in [1411] a way which would damage the public broadcasting system. There is no justification for that in a democratic system. It is an anti-democratic fact to set up such a structure which visibly has no other conceivable purpose, or none which anyone else has suggested.

This must be resisted by everybody in the House. Different views, can be taken of other aspects of the Bill but the basic concept of capping in this form, designed to intimidate the broadcasting authority, is undemocratic and undesirable and something on which we should all unite. The Minister's party contains many liberal minded people, although not perhaps as many as we would like to see and not as many as in other parties. The same applies to the Progressive Democrats but, in this instance, they do not seem to have taken their responsibilities as seriously as they should have. It is disappointing that these people, who should be concerned about the democratic process, have not taken a stand against the Minister's jackboot tactics. It is worrying that our political system is vulnerable to this kind of approach and that it is supported.

The more vigorously we challenge it the more difficult we make it for the Government and the Minister subsequently to abuse power. It will also mean that there will be a greater chance that those in charge in RTE of making programmes or running the organisation will feel emboldened to carry out their responsibilities and will not allow themselves to be intimidated by, clearly, an intimidatory tactic.

I hope whatever Government succeed the present one will take steps to remove this provision and ensure that public broadcasting is rendered as we in Government tried to make it, immune to the maximum extent possible to the kind of political pressures which always tend to be designed to limit their critical faculty. We did this in Government by appointing as strong an Authority as we could to stand up to us and any other Government who might follow us. It has [1412] not always happened with other Governments, but we did that.

Looking back, I regret very much that we were unable to bring in legislation to deal with this area. I think those who made it difficult for us to do so, with due respect to some Deputies in this House, must now look back with some regret on it. In Government we could and would have brought in, had we been allowed, measures that would have made commercial broadcasting possible but in terms of guarantee to the independents and the continuing successful operation of RTE. That was my intention and wish and, I think, those of all members of the Government. It is a pity we were not able to do that.

Mr. M. Higgins: All they had to do was stick to our agreement.

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): Deputy Michael D. Higgins and I know all about agreements.

Dr. G. FitzGerald: The terms of what was agreed were there. Had we been allowed to do that and permit the development of commercial broadcasting on a basis that would have protected RTE it would have been much better for everybody. I am sorry that did not happen, but whatever mistakes were made in the past we must at this stage stand together on this and I hope that whatever Government succeed the present one — I will not be in this House to see them operating — will take the necessary steps to remove this provision and build up the protection of public broadcasting against these kinds of pressures, which is essential in any democratic system.

I was recently in Czechoslovakia at the time of the election there and I was asked to contribute to a seminar the day after the election on issues involving morality and ethics in politics. One point I made among many as to the dangers of corruption in the market system and pluralist democratic system which they have to face as they move to it and which they should guard against and not make the mistakes we made, was the importance [1413] of maintaining public broadcasting, and doing nothing to undermine the role of public broadcasting and protecting it from political pressures. That message in every democracy must be made as clear as possible. I regret that this Government have allowed one of their Ministers in pursuance of what seems very like a vendetta on his part to adopt this kind of tactics and be given the authority to do so. The Government themselves will regret it; I think they regret at present that they walked into this and he is probably not a very popular Minister in the Government because of that. There are sensitive people in that Government who realise that this kind of action is not popular, is not conducive to the standing of the Government, and that this Government, like others, are vulnerable to mistakes of this kind which, if accumulated can bring a Government into disrepute. Even a Government who may be riding high in the polls at present can come a cropper very quickly if there is an accumulation of actions by them about which the public have become unhappy. I think this Minister's action in this Bill has been unhelpful to the Government. On that account I do not welcome it; it is too serious to play party politics with.

I read with considerable scepticism the submissions made by various vested interests, always looking to see what their motive is and whether the points they make have any validity. I have to say I was impressed by — not all — almost all the points made by the marketing society in the submission they made to us. They make the point that advertisers who cannot obtain time on RTE will look to other relevant media, that in looking to other relevant media they will produce TV commercials and if they cannot have them on RTE as much as they would like they will put them elsewhere and the only elsewhere they can go to is UTV. The idea that this Government should set about building up UTV — for which I have every respect and I hope it will continue in a successful operation in part of our island — in advance of and against the interests of a third TV channel here which they are keen on having whatever [1414] doubts they may have about its commercial viability, is really rather extraordinary. There must be very strong, irrational motivation to lead them to that course of action.

The point is made that the only serious alternative is UTV. Two out of three sets in the Republic can receive it, 85 per cent in Dublin, and this will drive money out of the economy into Northern Ireland. I think I am correct in saying that the net effect will be serious consequences for employment in RTE, in marketing companies, market research organisations and advertising agencies in this State. Why this Government would allow a Minister to embark on a crusade against employment in this State in these areas is hard to credit, but obviously he carries a certain amount of weight and they may decide to let him away with it this time. They let him away with adopting a policy which is totally contrary to the general thrust of Government policy which is designed — not always wisely — all the time to try to maximise the amount of employment.

The other point I have to make also has validity. Any price rise in terms of TV advertising will tend to squeeze the smaller advertiser out of the market in favour of the big budget international marketing company with an adverse effect on the growing sector of new small Irish companies, again contrary to the objectives of this and other Governments in this State. That all this damage should be done just so the Minister can get into a better position to intimidate RTE is extremely discreditable to the Government in office at present. I hope that when the Government changes, the mistakes made here will be put right. Oppositions sometimes promise to do things and when they come into Government do not always get round to doing them. We have become cautious about that. There are not too many people promising we will reverse everything here. Past experience has taught us to be cautious with these promises, but this is one case where we should, whatever we say publicly or make claims about, put down a [1415] marker in our own minds that in Government this is one of the things to be put right very early on when the Government changes.

I repeat my first point, that this is totally contrary to the rational action we would expect from a Government in regard to a public broadcasting system dependent on advertising and licence fees, which is to maximise the revenue from advertising subject to limit in terms of time or type of advertising, in order to minimise the impact on licence fee. It has the opposite affect and such a perverse action by a Government can only be explained in the terms I have suggested.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Dempsey, you are in possession now, but I remind you that Deputy Mac Giolla will be hoping to make a contribution. I see Deputy O'Sullivan rising and the Minister has not yet intervened. Deputy Dempsey, to the amendment, please.

Mr. Dempsey: I do not intend to delay the Minister because I am sure, having listened for the last hour to the debate on these amendments, he will be very interested in getting a few points across.

Regarding the amendments and what has been said by various members of the Opposition, I noted that Deputy Garland seemed to be proposing that everything be left free and open, that there should be no restrictions at all in the area of broadcasting and everything should be deregulated. Coming from a party whose members in various countries believe that people should not drive cars, should work for only 22 hours in the week, should not smoke and should be told how many children they should have, it is a little rich——

Mr. Garland: Rubbish.

Mr. Dempsey: If we take his hypothesis to the logical conclusion, we would have no licence fees at all. RTE would have no licence fee and they would get no state subsidy by means of the licence fee itself. I notice from all the other amendments [1416] put down by The Workers' Party and the Labour Party, that they accept the principle that there should be a limitation. They may disagree with the Minister and that is generally what parliamentary democracy is about, but both the Labour Party and The Workers' Party and, in so far as I can judge, the Fine Gael Party accept there should be limitation on advertising time for RTE. The difference in the proposal of The Workers' Party is they want the authority to decide that rather than the Minister. I do not know what purpose they would serve. I doubt if the authority, who are RTE, will regulate and control themselves, and if they were in that position it is not likely that they would achieve the Minister's aim of a level playing field for RTE and other broadcasting services.

I am intrigued by the Fine Gael position on the amendment and on this section which is, as every speaker has said, at the core of the Bill. All they could manage to do was to put down an amendment to an amendment put down by the Minister. With all the shouting and screaming they did over the last number of weeks one would have thought that they would have been able to come up with a substantial proposal for amending the Bill, but they have not done so. At least I can give the Labour Party credit for putting forward something positive and direct. Fine Gael have claimed that they are implacably opposed to the Bill. They were so opposed to it that they failed to have enough Deputies in the House to oppose it on Second Stage. They then withdrew during Committee Stage, having wasted three or four days. People outside have recognised their contribution for what it was.

The Labour Party have been consistent throughout the debate, putting forward their own ideology. At least people can agree to disagree with them on this. Deputy Michael Higgins admitted in relation to amendment No. 14 that they started out totally opposed on principle to taking any money from RTE and they said particularly that money should not be taken from RTE to hand over to private broadcasting companies. Their [1417] amendment No. 14 turns that belief on its head and the proposal is practically the original proposal by the Minister except that the levy is now coming from advertising rather than licence fees. I noted that Deputy Higgins, although I am not so sure that he was fully behind the amendment, kept putting in caveats and mentioned the fact that he realised that about 75 per cent of the £5 million he is talking about would come from RTE.

Mr. M. Higgins: I said that.

Mr. Dempsey: That is what I said, that you noted that point. The Labour Party seem to be wondering about the constitutionality of what the Minister is proposing. Effectively their amendment is saying that the £5 million would come from RTE because very few of the private small radio stations would have a revenue in excess of £1 million. People know my stance on this.

Mr. T. O'Sullivan: What is it?

(Interruptions.)

Mr. J. Mitchell: What is it?

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Are you for or against it?

Mr. Dempsey: People know my stance on this. I have not made any secret of it.

Mr. J. Mitchell: You are the only Fianna Fáil backbencher to come in, so we should listen to you.

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Dempsey is entitled to make his point. He has been speaking now for six minutes. Other people had some what more time and got a silent audience. It should be given to him whether or not we agree with him. Deputy Dempsey now, without interruption.

Mr. J. Mitchell: He is the only Fianna Fáil backbencher here.

[1418] Mr. Dempsey: I am surprised that some of the Deputies opposite who claim they have followed the debate on this legislation should ask what my position is, because I have made it quite clear.

Mr. McCartan: It is the first time you have come into the debate.

Mr. Dempsey: Excuse me, you are only betraying your own ignorance, Deputy Mitchell. I have been here for a substantial amount of the time.

Mr. J. Mitchell: I must be blind, because I did not see you.

Mr. Dempsey: You must be. Maybe you were too busy calling quorums.

All the Deputies on various sides have been asking the Minister to be flexible and to be willing to change but any time the Minister has made an amendment to the Bill he has been criticised. When the Minister made his original remarks about RTE 2 and 2FM and so on he was criticised. When the Bill as published was changed by the Minister he was again criticised. When the Minister made another change in response to demands by outside interests and Members of this House including Members of his own backbench, he was again criticised. If the Opposition parties had adopted a more constructive stance right through this debate rather than engaging in the nonsense that went on over the last two or three weeks with personalised attacks on the Minister, making this probably the most vitriolic debate in this House for a considerable number of years, we would have had a Bill that could have been amended. Instead, the Opposition were more interested in personalised attacks on the Minister. I very much regret that and the effect it has had.

I acknowledge the fact that the Minister has in his amendment added half a minute to the time allowed to RTE for advertising. I would like to see more time being given but half a minute is a concession. I would like the Minister to clarify that this ranges over all of RTE stations because that will mean two and [1419] a half minutes extra advertising time. I also acknowledge the Minister's move in postponing the implementation of the Act until October.

Mr. Burke: These amendments deal in the main with the time limits proposed for advertising on RTE and seek either to delete the limits which I have proposed or radically alter them. We have in addition Labour Party amendment, No. 14, incorporating their levy proposal.

First I should deal with my own amendment, No. 17, which proposes to increase the maximum advertising per hour to five minutes.

As I explained yesterday, this amendment has a twofold objective. First it is a response to the concerns about charity advertising and is intended to enable RTE to continue their current practice of offering a maximum of seven minutes per day of discounted charity advertising on their radio services only. But it goes further than that. It is also a response to representations I received, including those from ICTU, who felt that the original 4.5 minute limit was too restrictive.

Deputy Higgins yesterday had some difficulty understanding how I could be responding to two different sets of representations in the one amendment. I must confess that I am confused at the Deputy's confusion. The situation is quite straightforward. I am giving RTE the extra half minute so that they can continue to offer their discount rate to charities on their radio services up to the maximum of seven minutes currently allowed — an allowance that would not necessarily be fully used up every day. But the concession enables RTE to go further because it will apply to the totality of their services, including television. This is the context in which I am responding to the ICTU representations. Part of the concern with the original limit is that it would not be adequate to enable RTE to reach the revenue cap limit — or at least not without swingeing price increases which might deter advertisers. By increasing the minutes to five per hour, RTE will be able to bring in the better [1420] part of an additional £2 million a year at current rates. This will modify the kind of price increases that RTE might otherwise have had to implement to attain the revenue cap level.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Rubbish.

Mr. Burke: This in turn explains — for Deputy Mitchell's benefit — what I said yesterday about the value of the five minute concession. Contrary to his allegations I never said that the five minutes implied a £2 million bonus on the revenue cap level. I was very careful to say only that it had an equivalent value in current terms of almost £2 million a year.

Obviously I cannot accept the various amendments proposed to the time limits. This is not due to any stubbornness on my part or an unwillingness to listen to what are I am sure well intentioned proposals from the Opposition. It is due rather to a fundamental disagreement of principle between the Government side and the Opposition. What we are doing is creating the conditions for fairer competition in the broadcasting sector. What the relevant section of the Bill is doing is reducing the time limit for advertising on RTE to half that allowed for the independent sector and the rationale for that limit is that RTE have the exclusive benefit, to the extent of about half their broadcasting income, of licence fee revenue.

This unfortunately seems to be a point missed by Deputy FitzGerald who still seems in his contribution to come from a position of “only a monopoly position on broadcasting” in this country. There is now a series of stations, about 20 stations around the country to which, according to a recent audience survey, over a million people are listening. Deputy FitzGerald who, perhaps more than most Deputies, has talked in this House about pluralism, when we are going towards pluralism in broadcasting, harkens back to the old monopoly days. It is a bit sad that time passes him by. There are I am sure other ways of levelling the famous playing pitch. Some have advocated that [1421] perhaps we should have done away totally with the licence fee and allowed all broadcasters to compete purely on a commercial basis which, undoubtedly, would have been a politically popular move, at least in the short term. Indeed, that would be the logical extension of the point advocated from the benches opposite last night when it was argued that there should be no time restrictions at all on advertising on RTE, that RTE should be allowed maximise revenue from that source and the benefits passed on to the public through lower licence fees.

My own view is that such a move would be too radical and too traumatic for RTE. Likewise, while we initially proposed that the way to create fairer competitive conditions would be to give all broadcasters a share of the licence fee — with the lion's share still going to RTE — it was clear from the reaction of this House, and also from the confusion created among the public, that there was a large degree of unacceptability with that approach. And so we have adopted the approach of limiting RTE's role in the advertising sector on the basis I outlined above.

This brings me to the Labour Party's proposal. First, all I should say that I welcome the proposal in that it is an attempt to be constructive and it recognises, at last, the fundamental issues which my legislative proposals have sought to address. For this I am certainly grateful. I must also say that I am amazed and astounded at this proposal given the criticism and villification I came in for from that side of the House when I first announced my original proposals to divert licence fee revenue to the IRTC to enable the independent broadcasting sector to meet its public service obligations. The fact of the matter is that there is no significant difference in practice between what the Labour Party are now proposing and my original proposals.

Mr. T. O'Sullivan: That is not true; the Minister is misleading the House.

[1422] Mr. Burke: Let us look a little closer at the Labour Party proposal. The suggestion is that there would be a levy on all broadcasting services with a gross advertising revenue of more than £1 million and that this would be paid over to the IRTC to enable independent stations meet their public service obligations.

There are only three independent stations at present whose gross revenue may hit the £1 million mark, and even then they will only exceed that level by a marginal amount if at all. This means that the vast bulk of the proposed levy would come from RTE — a levy of 8 per cent on RTE's gross advertising revenue of some £58 million would bring in around £4.64 million. A levy on the excess over £1 million from the three independent stations would not even go near making up the £400,000 difference to reach the proposed £5 million figure.

In practice there is little or no difference between my original proposal to divert licence fee revenue to the IRTC and the Labour Party proposal to divert revenue from, in essence, RTE.

Mr. T. O'Sullivan: The Minister is suffering from political dyslexia.

Mr. Burke: Only the labels have changed. It was clear that such proposals were unacceptable not just to many Members but among the public at large. We have gone beyond the point of no return on this question. Having accepted that the idea of diverting revenue to the IRTC was not acceptable to the House, I was left with little alternative but to deal with the matter by addressing the role of RTE in the advertising market. In those circumstances I cannot accept the Labour Party amendments.

I should like to make one final point in relation to the Labour Party and I will sit down within 15 seconds. The independent stations already pay a levy of 3 per cent on their contracts to support the IRTC. RTE pay nothing for their licence which is in contrast to the position in the UK where, for instance, the BBC must pay a significant sum to the State for the [1423] frequency spectrum they use. I commend the remainder of my amendments to the House.

Mr. T. O'Sullivan: I should like to raise a point of order. The Minister's case is so transparent that I will not bother replying to it. I should like to formally move a procedural motion, motion No. 2 on the Order Paper, which is as follows:

“That Dáil Éireann pursuant to Standing Order 102 of the Standing Orders Relative to Public Business directs that section 2 of the Broadcasting Bill, 1990 be recommitted to a committee of the whole House.”

The motion has been circulated.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The motion is not in order——

Mr. T. O'Sullivan: It is in order.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The motion is not in order.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Who says that the motion is not in order?

Mr. M. Higgins: There was a ruling on this matter earlier today and the Ceann Comhairle asked the proposers of the two motions dealing with Standing Order 102 if we wished at that time to move them and we said that we intended to defer our decision. The Ceann Comhairle indicated that that course of action was acceptable to him. As the co-mover of the Standing Order motion moved by Deputy O'Sullivan, I now second his motion and I should like to indicate that we are calling a vote on it.

Mr. J. Mitchell: The motion is in order and I support it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Will Deputy O'Sullivan formally move the motion?

Mr. T. O'Sullivan: I move.

[1424] “That Dáil Éireann pursuant to Standing Order 102 of the Standing Orders Relative to Public Business directs that section 2 of the Broadcasting Bill, 1990 be recommitted to a committee of the whole House.”

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Minister is entitled to make a comment on the motion.

Mr. Burke: I reject this proposal on the basis that the Bill has been debated in the House for many hours. We have had Report Stage on an agreed time limit today with a motion, which was agreed without debate this morning, to the effect that at 6.45 this evening, the Report and Final Stages and only amendments in my name should stand. We have reached 6.45 p.m. and I suggest that we proceed in accordance with today's order.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The question is: “That the amendments set down by the Minister for Communications——

(Interruptions.)

Mr. J. Mitchell: This is a shameful practice.

Mr. M. Higgins: We are calling a vote on our motion.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I want to put the question in accordance with the Order of the day.

Mr. M. Higgins: We called a vote on our motion before 6.45 p.m.

Mr. McCartan: On a point of order——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: There is no point of order.

Mr. J. Mitchell: This is a shameful tactic.

Mr. T. O'Sullivan: Our motion was put before 6.45 p.m.

[1425] Mr. McCartan: I wish to make a point of order and I am entitled to do so.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: There is no point of order. I will allow the Deputy to say something briefly.

Mr. McCartan: My point of order is that the motion in the name of the Labour Party was moved within the time allotted and available to them, before 6.45 p.m.

Mr. M. Higgins: And a vote was called on it.

Mr. McCartan: They are, in my respectful submission, entitled to have that motion put in advance of anything else being done. For the purpose of the record, I should like to say that the Chair purposely invited the Minister to comment on that motion being put as a device to try to move on to the other question. That is the extent of your impartiality.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is a comment that only a politician with the Deputy's mind could think up. I am putting the following question: That the amendments set down by the Minister for Communications and not disposed of——

Mr. M. Higgins: I challenge, on behalf of the Labour Party, the way our motion has been dealt with.

Mr. J. Mitchell: I wish to raise a point of order.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: ——are hereby made to the Bill, that the Fourth Stage is completed and that the Bill is hereby passed.” Is the motion agreed?

Mr. T. O'Sullivan: The motion is not agreed.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Jackboot tactics.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Votáil.

Mr. Spring: On a point of order——

[1426] An Ceann Comhairle: I will not receive a point of order, I am putting the question.

Mr. Spring: I wish to put a point of order which I submit is a valid point of order at this time.

An Ceann Comhairle: No.

Mr. Spring: This is totally discourteous on your part.

An Ceann Comhairle: The question has already been put from the Chair.

Mr. Spring: I wish to put a point of order which I believe is in order.

An Ceann Comhairle: A vote has been called for and the vote will now be implemented.

Mr. Spring: There will be no tellers for the vote, Sir.

An Ceann Comhairle: That is a matter for you.

Mr. Spring: It is out of order. I want to make a point of order. I am entitled to be heard. I have rights in this House just as you have.

An Ceann Comhairle: The question is:

“That the amendments set down by the Minister for Communications and not disposed of are hereby made to the Bill, that Fourth Stage is hereby completed and that the Bill is hereby passed”. On that question a division has been challenged. Let us proceed with the vote.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. McCartan: A motion was moved under Standing Order 102 by the Labour Party.

Mr. Howlin: The motion under Standing Order 102 should be taken.

Mr. M. Higgins: We are entitled to [1427] vote on the motion under Standing Order 102.

Mr. Spring: It was moved in accordance with your guidance, a Cheann Comhairle.

Mr. Dukes: You cannot proceed with the vote. In the interests of order you should now allow the motion to be put. Standing Order 102 clearly specifies that a motion for recommittal may be made at any time before the order for the Fifth Stage shall have been made. The order for Fifth Stage has not been made. Therefore the motion under Standing Order 102 is perfectly in order and I submit that it is abundantly clear from the Standing Orders of this House that the motion must be put.

An Ceann Comhairle: The vote will now proceed.

Mr. J. Mitchell: How can the vote proceed without tellers?

Mr. Spring: There are no tellers, there is no vote.

Mr. Taylor: The vote cannot proceed.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. J. Mitchell: Who are the tellers?

Mr. Howlin: We are now in Private Members' time.

An Ceann Comhairle: As tellers have not been appointed on one side I wish to invoke the precedent set by my predecessors that, where no tellers are nominated after a division has been demanded, it is not incumbent on the Chair to put the question afresh. Refusal to appoint tellers cannot hold up the business of the House.

Mr. Dukes: There is another issue before the House that takes precedence over the question you are now talking [1428] about. The motion has been moved fully in accordance with Standing Orders.

Mr. Spring: In the interests of the conduct of the business of this House I must ask if you are aware of what happened prior to your coming into the Chair this evening? Are you aware that a motion under Standing Order 102 was moved in accordance with the guidance you gave to us at an early stage of the debate? This speaks volumes for your impartiality.

Mr. Taylor: Is it the position that we are bound by Standing Orders and the Ceann Comhairle is not? The Ceann Comhairle is bound by Standing Orders just as is every other Member of this House. How can you call on us to abide by Standing Orders when you clearly refuse to abide by them yourself?

Mr. Howlin: Is there a vote or not?

An Ceann Comhairle: As there were no tellers for Níl, in accordance with precedent the Chair now declares the motion carried.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Dukes: On a point of order, this vote is invalid. A motion was made before this question was put. That motion was validly and properly made under the Standing Orders of this House. It was accepted by the Leas-Cheann Comhairle who was in the Chair at the time. That motion is the one we should now be considering. I can assure you, Sir, that when you put that motion to the House the vote will be proceeded with properly.

Mr. Spring: On a point of order——

An Ceann Comhairle: In respect of the comment made by Deputy Dukes, I do not intend to enter into controversy in the matter, merely to say——

Tomás Mac Giolla: You have already entered into controversy.

[1429] An Ceann Comhairle: ——that I believe the question was properly put to the House from the Chair.

Mr. Dukes: A motion had previously been properly and validly put to the House, as provided for in Standing Orders.

An Ceann Comhairle: Will you hear the Chair, Deputy Dukes? It is a long-standing practice in the House that the Ceann Comhairle does not review the rulings of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle or any other occupant of the Chair.

Mr. J. Mitchell: It is the Fianna Fáil jackboot now.

Mr. Spring: I believe you have a responsibility in this matter. I now wish to move under Standing Order 102 a motion in the names of Deputies O'Sullivan and Higgins. That motion reads as follows:

That Dáil Éireann pursuant to Standing Order 102 of the Standing Orders Relative to Public Business directs that Section 2 of the Broadcasting Bill, 1990 be recommitted to a committee of the whole House.

This motion is perfectly in order.

An Ceann Comhairle: I cannot accept the motion. We now proceed to deal with Private Members' Business.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Taylor: For what reason are you not accepting it when it is quite clear from Standing Orders that the motion is in order? This is not good enough.

Mr. Spring: We are all Members of this House. Just because you are sitting up there, you do not have any more rights than the rest of us.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Fifth Stage has long since been passed.

(Interruptions.)

[1430] Mr. M. Higgins: No order has been made for Fifth Stage. Therefore the motion is perfectly in order.

Mr. Howlin: On a point of order, I understood in ordering the business for today it was decided that this House would deal with Private Members' Business at 7 p.m. The vote that is purported to have taken place took place after 7 p.m. in Private Members' time and I contend, improperly.

An Ceann Comhairle: That is not an unusual occurrence, as you know, Deputy.

Mr. Taylor: What is unusual is that the Ceann Comhairle is not abiding by Standing Orders.

Mr. J. Mitchell: May I raise a point of order, Sir?

An Ceann Comhairle: I will hear no further points of order on this subject. I am proceeding now with Private Members' Business.

Mr. J. Mitchell: You must listen to a point of order.

An Ceann Comhairle: Do not dictate to me, Deputy Mitchell.

Mr. J. Mitchell: I have my rights and I want to raise a point of order.

An Ceann Comhairle: Item No. 21, Deputy Michael Noonan to continue his speech on the Private Members' motion.

Mr. J. Mitchell: A Ceann Comhairle——

An Ceann Comhairle: I have called Deputy Michael Noonan.

Mr. J. Mitchell: I am seeking to raise a point of order, Sir.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy will not dictate to the Chair.

[1431] Mr. J. Mitchell: No, Sir. I merely seek to raise a point of order.

An Ceann Comhairle: This is the last point of order I will hear on this subject.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Before 6.45 p.m. tonight a motion under Standing Order 102 was moved and accepted——

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Mitchell, I do not review the rulings of my predecessor in this Chair, that is a long standing practice. I have conveyed that to the House.

Deputy Noonan rose.

An Ceann Comhairle: Will Deputy Noonan——

Mr. J. Mitchell: Allow me to finish my point of order.

An Ceann Comhairle: If this disturbance and disorder continues I will be left with no option but to adjourn the House.

Mr. J. Mitchell: The disorder, Sir, is all on the Government side of the House.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. J. Mitchell: The Government have presided over a shambles from beginning to end. They will not be allowed to use jackboot tactics in this House, Sir.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

An Ceann Comhairle: In view of the continuing disorder of a very serious nature I hereby adjourn the House for half an hour.

Sitting suspended at 7.20 p.m., and resumed at 7.50 p.m.

An Ceann Comhairle: Item No. 21, Private Members' motion——

Mr. Dukes: A Cheann Comhairle, on [1432] a point of order I do not think it is appropriate simply to go on with the business of the House. I suggest to you, Sir, that the only way we can get the business of this House properly back on tracks, the only way the Government have any semblance of a means of recovering some of the honour they have thrown away here is to go back to the point in our proceedings where a motion under Standing Order 102 was validly moved. I would suggest to you, Sir, that there is not any way in which a motion under Standing Order 102 can be engulfed or wrapped up in the time motion, as was attempted to be done here earlier. The motion was moved, it was proper to move it, it was moved at a point before the order for the Fifth Stage of this Bill had been made. It is specifically provided for here, Sir, that that can be done and that it is only if the motion is opposed that statements have to be made on it.

I would suggest, Sir, that you go back to the point in our proceedings at which that motion had been accepted by the Chair and let us see then what the proper procedures of this House will then produce.

An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry, I can only repeat what I said in the House earlier. The Chair does not review the decisions of the previous occupant, be he the Leas-Cheann Comhairle or an ordinary chairman of my panel.

Mr. Dukes: I am not asking you to review them. I am simply asking you to give effect to what the Leas-Cheann Comhairle did in accepting the motion properly made under Standing Order 102. There is no shame, dishonour or climb-down in that, Sir; it is a perfectly legitimate motion to move provided for under Standing Orders.

Mr. Spring: There seems to be an unfortunate sequence of events in relation to the Broadcasting Bill. There are very few protections which Members of this House can invoke. I put it to you, Sir, that you are the guardian of the conduct of business in this House. In [1433] relation to this evening's business I believe that when you take decisions which certainly baffle at least half of the Members of this House we are entitled to an explanation. The motion under Standing Order 102 was correctly moved. It was disputed by the Leas-Cheann Comhairle in the first instance. It was then accepted when he was reminded that you yourself, Sir, had said earlier in this debate that it could be moved at any time. I believe it was properly moved and should have been taken. It leaves an unfortunate odour in relation to the conduct of business in this House. You have a responsibility, Sir, to ensure that our business is conducted openly and fairly with regard to all Members of this House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Always that has been my desire and intention and my record proves that, Deputy.

Tomás Mac Giolla: A Cheann Comhairle——

An Ceann Comhairle: Would the Deputy please allow the Chair to get in a comment, if he does not mind? The question was properly put from the Chair, a vote was called for; it was put to the House and the vote was carried.

Tomas Mac Giolla: What vote?

Mr. Dukes: A motion had been moved under Standing Order 102.

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Mac Giolla.

Tomás Mac Giolla: A Cheann Comhairle, I had occasion last week to make this point — and it is an important point to make — that this is not a county council or a football club and that you are not a referee; this is a Legislative Assembly and, unless legislation is put through in accordance with the appropriate procedures laid down for such proceedings, then that legislation could very well be invalid. Precedents and conventions are not necessarily binding if a case went to [1434] court. In this case the motion was not declared out of order; it just was not put; at least it must be put. The result would be the same — two votes instead of one; that is all it would have been.

Mr. M. Higgins: Exactly.

Tomás Mac Giolla: Why not do it correctly?

Mr. McCartan: Democracy instead of the jackboot.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy referred to what had gone before. I was not a witness to that. The time of 6.45 p.m. arrived. By an order of this House the question had to be put——

Tomás Mac Giolla: Two motions.

An Ceann Comhairle: ——and the Chair had no option in the matter.

Mr. Dukes: A Cheann Comhairle, before that time had arrived that motion had been validly put and the House deserved to be able to pronounce itself on that motion.

Mr. M. Higgins: Yes.

Mr. Dukes: My submission to you, Sir, is that a motion validly moved under Standing Order 102 cannot be rolled up in a time motion particularly when the motion under Standing Order 102 had been moved before the time appointed for taking that time motion. I propose to you, Sir, that by far the most respectable and democratic resolution of the issue before us is to go back to the point in our proceedings at which that motion was put. Let us take that motion; if it is opposed its mover can make a point, those opposing it can make a point and the House can decide on it. Then we can proceed in whatever is the proper manner thereafter.

An Ceann Comhairle: I do not want to enter into controversy in the matter. The House will remember yesterday that, [1435] when the item for recommittal in the name of two Members arose, I asked them to move the motions. They failed to moved the motions at that time.

Mr. M. Higgins: What we told you, Sir, was that we were reserving our position and you accepted that.

An Ceann Comhairle: The motion for recommital was put only some minutes before the time fixed by the order of this House, two or three minutes beforehand.

Mr. M. Higgins: That is right.

An Ceann Comhairle: I see the Taoiseach is offering.

The Taoiseach: I think it was you who in parliamentary terms, called this grave disorder here before and you, with some wisdom, adjourned the House to enable the Party Leaders to have a discussion. In desperation I suggest that you give us a ten minute adjournment to allow the Party Leaders meet and see if we can resolve the matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Taoiseach's request is granted. We adjourn for ten minutes.

Sitting suspended at 8 p.m. and resumed at 8.10 p.m.

The Taoiseach: A Cheann Comhairle, the party leaders have met in an effort to resolve what was really a procedural matter and I want to make a suggestion to the House but before doing so let me say that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle has asked me to say that in his view he took a correct view of the Standing Orders and acted in accordance with Standing Order as he saw it to be. I make that statement on his behalf.

What the party leaders have agreed is, with your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, and with the agreement of the House, that the motion about the recommittal of the Bill be put, without debate, voted on, followed by the vote on the [1436] Broadcasting Bill proper, Report and Final Stages. There will be just two votes to put the matter finally in order.

An Ceann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. T. O'Sullivan: A Cheann Comhairle, as section 2 is the core of the Bill and as many points have been made that yet require clarification, I propose in my own name, and in the name of Deputy Michael D. Higgins the following motion:

“That Dáil Éireann pursuant to Standing Order 102 of the Standing Orders Relative to Public Business directs that Section 2 of the Broadcasting Bill, 1990, be recommitted to a committee of the whole House.”

Mr. McCartan: I wish to signify, on behalf of the Workers' Party that we support this motion for the reasons as outlined.

The Taoiseach: As you might expect, a Cheann Comhairle, the Government oppose the motion.

An Ceann Comhairle: I am putting the question that the recommittal proposals announced by Deputy Toddy O'Sullivan be agreed. Is that agreed? Agreed.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. J. Mitchell: You cannot put the question again, a Cheann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Taoiseach intimated his opposition to the motion.

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): I am in possession for Private Members' Time.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): It is Private Members' Time. I am in possession.

The Taoiseach: A Cheann Comhairle, I appeal to the parties——

[1437] (Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: The agreement of the House was that the motion be put. I indicated to you that we were opposing the motion. I asked you to put the motion.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: No, you did not.

An Ceann Comhairle: That is the position.

[1438] Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): On a point of order a Cheann Comhairle——

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): What sort of leaders have we? Will you pull your crew into order and stop this messing?

An Ceann Comhairle: On item No. 2 the question is: “That Dáil Éireann pursuant to Standing Order 102 of the Standing Orders Relative to Public Business directs that Section 2 of the Broadcasting Bill, 1990, be recommitted to a committee of the whole House”.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 71; Níl, 74.

Ahearn, Therese.

Barnes, Monica.

Barrett, Seán.

Barry, Peter.

Bell, Michael.

Belton, Louis J.

Boylan, Andrew.

Bradford, Paul.

Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).

Bruton, John.

Bruton, Richard.

Byrne, Eric.

Carey, Donal.

Connor, John.

Cosgrave, Michael Joe.

Creed, Michael.

Crowley, Frank.

Currie, Austin.

Deasy, Austin.

Deenihan, Jimmy.

Doyle, Joe.

Dukes, Alan.

Durkan, Bernard.

Farrelly, John V.

Ferris, Michael.

Finucane, Michael.

FitzGerald, Garret.

Flaherty, Mary.

Flanagan, Charles.

Foxe, Tom.

Garland, Roger.

Gilmore, Eamon.

Gregory, Tony.

Harte, Paddy.

Higgins, Jim.

Higgins, Michael D.

Hogan, Philip.

Howlin, Brendan.

Kavanagh, Liam.

Kemmy, Jim.

Kenny, Enda.

Lee, Pat.

Lowry, Michael.

McCartan, Pat.

McCormack, Pádraic.

Mac Giolla, Tomás.

McGrath, Paul.

Mitchell, Jim.

Moynihan, Michael.

Nealon, Ted.

Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East).

O'Brien, Fergus.

O'Keeffe, Jim.

O'Shea, Brian.

O'Sullivan, Gerry.

O'Sullivan, Toddy.

Owen, Nora.

Pattison, Séamus.

Quinn, Ruairí.

Rabbitte, Pat.

Reynolds, Gerry.

Ryan, Seán.

Shatter, Alan.

Sheehan, Patrick J.

Sherlock, Joe.

Spring, Dick.

Stagg, Emmet.

Taylor, Mervyn.

Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine

Timmins, Godfrey.

Yates, Ivan.

Níl

Ahern, Bertie.

Ahern, Dermot.

Ahern, Michael.

Andrews, David.

[1439]Brennan, Mattie.

Briscoe, Ben.

Browne, John (Wexford).

Burke, Raphael P.

Calleary, Seán.

Callely, Ivor.

Clohessy, Peadar.

Connolly, Ger.

Coughlan, Mary Theresa.

Cowen, Brian.

Cullimore, Séamus.

Daly, Brendan.

Davern, Noel.

Dempsey, Noel.

Dennehy, John.

de Valera, Síle.

Ellis, John.

Fahey, Frank.

Fahey, Jackie.

Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.

Fitzpatrick, Dermot.

Flood, Chris.

Flynn, Pádraig.

Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.

Harney, Mary.

Haughey, Charles J.

Hillery, Brian.

Hilliard, Colm.

Hyland, Liam.

Jacob, Joe.

Kelly, Laurence.

Kenneally, Brendan.

Kitt, Michael P.

Aylward, Liam.

Barrett, Michael.

Brady, Gerard.

Brady, Vincent.

[1440]Kitt, Tom.

Lawlor, Liam.

Lenihan, Brian.

Leonard, Jimmy.

Leyden, Terry.

Lyons, Denis.

McCreevy, Charlie.

McDaid, Jim.

McEllistrim, Tom.

Morley, P.J.

Nolan, M.J.

Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).

O'Connell, John.

O'Dea, Willie.

O'Donoghue, John.

O'Hanlon, Rory.

O'Keeffe, Ned.

O'Leary, John.

O'Rourke, Mary.

O'Toole, Martin Joe.

Power, Seán.

Quill, Máirín.

Reynolds, Albert.

Roche, Dick.

Smith, Michael.

Stafford, John.

Treacy, Noel.

Wallace, Dan.

Wallace, Mary.

Walsh, Joe.

Wilson, John P.

Woods, Michael.

Wyse, Pearse.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Howlin and McCartan; Níl, Deputies V. Brady and Clohessy.

Question declared lost.

Question put: “That the amendments set down by the Minister for Communications and not disposed of are hereby made to the Bill; that Fourth Stage is hereby completed and that the Bill is hereby passed.”

The Dáil divided: Tá, 75; Níl, 72.

Ahern, Bertie.

Ahern, Dermot.

Ahern, Michael.

Andrews, David.

Aylward, Liam.

Barrett, Michael.

Brady, Gerard.

Brady, Vincent.

Brennan, Mattie.

Briscoe, Ben.

Browne, John (Wexford).

Burke, Raphael P.

Calleary, Seán.

Callely, Ivor.

Clohessy, Peadar.

Connolly, Ger.

Coughlan, Mary Theresa.

[1441]Hillery, Brian.

Hilliard, Colm.

Hyland, Liam.

Jacob, Joe.

Kelly, Laurence.

Kenneally, Brendan.

Kitt, Michael P.

Kitt, Tom.

Lawlor, Liam.

Lenihan, Brian.

Leonard, Jimmy.

Leyden, Terry.

Lyons, Denis.

McCreevy, Charlie.

McDaid, Jim.

McEllistrim, Tom.

Morley, P.J.

Nolan, M.J.

Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).

O'Connell, John.

Cowen, Brian.

Cullimore, Séamus.

Daly, Brendan.

Davern, Noel.

Dempsey, Noel.

Dennehy, John.

de Valera, Síle.

Ellis, John.

Fahey, Frank.

Fahey, Jackie.

Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.

Fitzpatrick, Dermot.

Flood, Chris.

Flynn, Pádraig.

Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.

Harney, Mary.

Haughey, Charles J.

[1442]O'Dea, Willie.

O'Donoghue, John.

O'Hanlon, Rory.

O'Keeffe, Ned.

O'Kennedy, Michael.

O'Leary, John.

O'Rourke, Mary.

O'Toole, Martin, Joe.

Power, Seán.

Quill, Máirín.

Reynolds, Albert.

Roche, Dick.

Smith, Michael.

Stafford, John.

Treacy, Noel.

Wallace, Dan.

Wallace, Mary.

Walsh, Joe.

Wilson, John P.

Woods, Michael.

Wyse, Pearse.

Níl

Ahearn, Therese.

Barnes, Monica.

Barrett, Seán.

Barry, Peter.

Bell, Michael.

Belton, Louis J.

Boylan, Andrew.

Bradford, Paul.

Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).

Bruton, John.

Bruton, Richard.

Byrne, Eric.

Carey, Donal.

Connor, John.

Cosgrave, Michael Joe.

Creed, Michael.

Crowley, Frank.

Currie, Austin.

Deasy, Austin.

Deenihan, Jimmy.

Doyle, Joe.

Dukes, Alan.

Durkan, Bernard.

Farrelly, John V.

Ferris, Michael.

Finucane, Michael.

FitzGerald, Garret.

Flaherty, Mary.

Flanagan, Charles.

Foxe, Tom.

Garland, Roger.

Gilmore, Eamon.

Gregory, Tony.

Harte, Paddy.

Higgins, Jim.

Higgins, Michael D.

Hogan, Philip.

Howlin, Brendan.

Kavanagh, Liam.

Kemmy, Jim.

Kenny, Enda.

Lee, Pat.

Lowry, Michael.

McCartan, Pat.

McCormack, Pádraic.

McGahon, Brendan.

Mac Giolla, Tomás.

McGrath, Paul.

Mitchell, Jim.

Moynihan, Michael.

Nealon, Ted.

Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East).

O'Brien, Fergus.

O'Keeffe, Jim.

O'Shea, Brian.

O'Sullivan, Gerry.

O'Sullivan, Toddy.

Owen, Nora.

Pattison, Séamus.

Quinn, Ruairí.

Rabbitte, Pat.

Reynolds, Gerry.

Ryan, Seán.

Shatter, Alan.

Sheehan, Patrick J.

Sherlock, Joe.

Spring, Dick.

Stagg, Emmet.

Taylor, Mervyn.

Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.

Timmins, Godfrey.

Yates, Ivan.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies V. Brady and Clohessy; Níl, Deputies J. Higgins and Howlin.

[1443] Question declared carried.